TRENTON – Senator Donald Norcross (D-Camden/Gloucester), chair of the Senate Law and Public Safety Committee, issued the following statement today after the committee held a public hearing on legislation the senator sponsored to allow voters to decide whether to give state judges discretion in determining if a person charged with a crime should be held without bail prior to trial.
The proposed Constitutional Amendment (SCR-107) would provide judges with the ability to prevent violent offenders from committing additional acts of violence by denying pretrial bail. Camden County First Assistant Prosecutor Gladys Rodriquez and Camden Police Department Detective Bureau Commander Greg Carlin testified before the committee about the immediate positive impact the change would have on law enforcement statewide, from preventing serious crimes to promoting cooperation of witnesses to criminal acts. The amendment would bring the state bail system in line with the federal structure:
“Today we heard from law enforcement officials about the tremendous obstacles they can face in stemming the bloodshed caused by violent criminals and those involved in the illegal drug trade. Because these individuals have access to substantial resources, often times no amount of bail guarantees they will remain incarcerated after they have committed a violent crime, regardless of the threat they pose to the public. Instead, they are released to commit more crimes, to intimidate witnesses and to take innocent lives.
“We must give judges the ability to keep our residents safe, and to weigh the risk to the public when setting bail for dangerous offenders.
“If approved by the Legislature and by voters, this Constitutional Amendment would bring our state courts in line with the federal structure, which has allowed judges this discretion in setting bail since 1984. This measure would not require bail be automatically revoked for certain offenders. Instead, it would empower judges, who cannot assure the safety of the public otherwise, to use the denial of pretrial bail as a last resort to keep our communities safe.”
The Law and Public Safety Committee approved the measure on June 4 by a vote of 5-0. A public hearing is required on any proposal to amend the constitution.