NPR logo Episode 783: New Jersey Bails Out

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Episode 783: New Jersey Bails Out

John Moore/Getty Images
Bail is broken. What to do?
John Moore/Getty Images

Mustafa Willis was arrested for a crime he didn't commit. He was offered bail, but, because he couldn't afford to pay, he stayed locked up for months, punished for a crime he had only been accused of.

Bail has been around for centuries. It's supposed to protect the rights of defendants like Mustafa who haven't been convicted of anything yet. At the same time, bail gives courts an extra guarantee that people are going to show up for their trials. But can a system built on money ever be fair to the poor?

In New Jersey, defense attorneys, judges, and prosecutors got together to try to reform a system that treated poor defendants so differently from rich ones. In the end: they got rid of bail.

Then they had to figure out how to replace it.

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