Report Analyzes New Jersey Jail Population
In partnership with the Drug Policy Alliance, Luminosity has issued a report that analyzes New Jersey’s jail population. The study’s goal “is to use this profile to identify opportunities to responsibly reduce New Jersey’s jail population while maintaining public safety and the integrity of the judicial process.”
On any given day, the New Jersey County Jail System (NJCJS), which comprises 22 jails in the state’s 22 counties, has in its custody approximately 15,000 detainees. Also, there are three privately owned and operated residential and reentry centers that house 2,740 county prisoners.
The report used a “snapshot” for its profile. Specifically, its data is derived from looking at the 13,303 persons in the custody of the NJCJS on October 13, 2002, at 4:00 a.m. Of those, 89.7% were male and 10.3% were female. Ages ranged from 17 to 89. The mean age was 33.5, but nearly 50% were 30 or younger. Black or Hispanic prisoners and detainees comprised 71% of the jail population.
Naturally, that population spread across all security classifications. The data indicated that 53.4% of the population presents no evident danger to self or others, have adapted to the jail environment, and are in general population. Only 2.1% were in segregation, and 2.3% in medical wards.
Those charged with either a violent, sex, or weapon offense comprised 43.9% of detainees. More than half were in for non-violent offenses such as drug (17%), theft/fraud (8%), and traffic (5%).
Of those in NJCJS during the snapshot, 73.3% were pretrial detainees, 16% were sentenced, and 10.7% had “other” status. Those in the other categories were being held on a detainer, family or juvenile court hold, pending supervision violation, or for protection.
The majority of the population (66.3%) awaits trial in superior court. Among them, the most common serious charges were drug-related offenses (17.6%), aggravated assault (13.4%), and robbery. Of all detainees, 5.8% were charged with murder. Only 2% of the population awaits transport to state prison following sentencing.
Just over 5,000 detainees (38.5%) “had an option to post bail but were held in custody solely due to their inability to meet the terms of bail.” Combined, this group comprised 1,547 persons (12% of the entire jail population) who were held in custody due to an inability to pay $2500 or less.
Of those, about 800 persons could have secured their release for $500 or less. Another 259 had bail that ranged from $501 to $1,000, and 489 could have gained release by posting a bond of $1,001 to $2,500. This was found to be one of the three primary factors to the large number of pretrial detainees.
Another factor was the high number of persons who had been indicted but had not yet been in trial, a group whose members had been in custody an average of 314 days. Many cases were found to be backlogged in the courts. Municipal Court active cases had a 41% backlog status, 53% of pre-indictment Superior Court cases were backlogged, and 45% of post-indictment cases were in that status.
The March 2103 report urged the stakeholders to identify solutions to end the backlog and find alternatives to pretrial detention. The report, “New Jersey Jail Population Analysis, Identifying Opportunities to Safely and Responsibly Reduce the Jail Population,” is available on PLN’s website.
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