Mayor Baraka Says Bail Reform Flaws Endanger Newark Residents


Urges Courts Not To Release Defendants Charged With Illegal Gun Possession.

Gun possession must be added to the list of crimes for which suspects are automatically recommended to be locked up under the state’s new bail system. Judicial fairness must be balanced with public safety. I urge Chief Justice Rabner to make changes to bail reform a priority and to carefully weigh the need to protect people from serious crimes.

Bail reform was needed to cure a major injustice. Non-violent offenders were being held in jail for months–even years pending a trial. They were isolated from their families and community, often losing their jobs. Some were held in jail because they were unable to pay even a low bail. And many were eventually found innocent.

Unfortunately, bail reform as actually implemented creates more victims, more recidivism and more crime. Presently, bail reform allows those charged with illegal firearms possession to return home to be monitored by court staff. This does not make sense because a person traveling through Newark with an illegal gun probably intends to use that gun in a crime.

In Newark, there have been too many cases where people were arrested for possession of a gun and quickly released because they were not deemed a threat under bail reform, only to kill or wound others shortly thereafter.

Over this past weekend, we had an incident involving a man arrested after a carjacking, gunfire and fatal police chase. He had been arrested twice before, once in 2016, and more recently on Jan. 25 of this year. In January, police seized a loaded AK-47 and arrested the defendant and three other men after gunfire and flight from the police. Under bail reform, the defendant was released following his January arrest. He should not have been released. A person arrested with an illegal gun, especially one of this magnitude should not be let out of jail to continue committing serious crimes.

To make bail reform work as intended, the list of crimes under bail reform defined as involving a risk to public safety must be expanded. I urge the Chief Justice and our state legislators to recognize that unlawful possession of a gun should be classified as a risk to public safety, a “violent” offense. I urge them to amend bail reform to give judges more discretion to keep a defendant in jail when the charge is illegal possession of a gun.

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