Column: Holzapfel Calls for Bail Reform
Holzapfel supports governor’s call for constitutional amendment on bail reform
Column as submitted by the District 10 office of Sen. Jim Holzapfel, who represents Manchester and Lakehurst:
Senator Jim Holzapfel (R-10), a member of the Senate Law and Public Safety Committee, announced his support for Governor Chris Christie’s proposal to modify the right to bail through an amendment to the New Jersey Constitution. Holzapfel, a former county prosecutor, has long supported reforms to prevent violent criminals from having the opportunity to continue preying on the public.
“Anyone who has worked in law enforcement or the courts knows that we have a virtual revolving door for violent offenders who are arrested, charged and released back to the streets where they often commit more crimes before they reach trial,” said Holzapfel. “Governor Christie is 100 percent right that we need to provide judges the discretion to deny bail to those who are most likely to threaten public safety before trial.”
Current constitutional requirements require judges to set bail for every defendant regardless of the defendant’s criminal history or a judge’s belief that the defendant may be a danger if released on bail.
The Governor’s proposed constitutional amendment would establish an exception authorizing pretrial detention when a court finds that no amount of bail, pretrial release conditions or combination of bail and conditions would assure the defendant’s appearance, protect the safety of any person and of the community or maintain the integrity of the criminal justice process. If adopted, the amendment would allow the Legislature to enact laws establishing procedures, terms and conditions applicable to pretrial release and detention.
“There are some people with long criminal histories who judges know will pose a threat to the public if released on bail,” added Holzapfel. “We need to trust our judges to know which defendants shouldn’t be allowed back on the streets before trial, and we need this constitutional amendment to help make that happen.”
Holzapfel was the sponsor of a 1997 law which increased the penalties for committing serious offenses while released on bail. He also co-sponsored the No Early Release Act which requires certain offenders to serve at least 85 percent of their sentences before being eligible for parole.