U.S. Pre-Trial Services Agency in New Jersey

U.S. Pre-Trial Services Agency in New Jersey

The roots of Pretrial Services can be traced to Arthur Beeley (1927) and Caleb Foote (1954), who studied the bail systems in Chicago and Philadelphia and found widespread abuses including the unnecessary detention of the indigent, the use of bail to punish prior to a determination of guilt and the impropriety of bondsmen acting as release brokers. Both argued that judges should be setting bail, not on the basis of the alleged offense or the accused's ability to raise cash but on the overall social background and circumstances of each individual defendant. These points were emphasized in Stack v. Boyle (1951) in which the U.S. Supreme Court indicated "that bail must be set after a factual review of each defendant's circumstances and may not be excessive". The Supreme Court later affirmed in Bandy v. U.S. (1960), that "pretrial detention due solely to the indigency of the defendant, is a clear denial of the Fourteenth Amendment".

These reforms were underscored in 1961 when Louis Schweitzer created the Vera Institute in New York City in response to jails overcrowded with "presumed innocent" persons. Vera's three year study, the Manhattan Bail Project, found the feasibility and efficacy of a system of bail based not on personal wealth but on verified social criteria. The success of this and similar projects led to the enacting of the Bail Reform Act of 1966. The Act provided U.S. Judicial Officers with standards and guidelines requiring consideration of the accused's overall background and community ties, thereby fostering a more equitable system of bail. Unnecessary detention of the indigent was felt to serve neither the needs of justice nor the public interest. The Act created a presumption of release and required the Court to impose the least restrictive conditions of release which would provide reasonable assurances that the defendant would return for Court appearances.

In 1974 Congress enacted Title II of the Speedy Trial Act of 1974 which authorized the Director of the Administrative Office to establish, on a demonstration basis, Pretrial Services Agencies in ten representative judicial districts. The personnel in these Agencies were to provide Judicial Officers with verified information relevant to the Bail Reform Act release criteria and to provide necessary service to persons released pending trial, including supervision of those released. The expected outcomes included reduction of crime by persons released on bail, the reduction in the cost of unnecessary detention and more effective use of non-financial provisions of the Bail Reform Act. Based on the success of these demonstration districts and the recommendation of the Judicial Conference of the United States, Congress enacted the Pretrial Services Act of 1982 "authorizing the Director of the Administrative Office of the United States Courts, under the supervision and the direction of the Judicial Conference of the United States, to provide directly, or by contract or otherwise, for the establishment of pretrial services in each U.S. Judicial District".

In 1984 the Comprehensive Crime Control Act was enacted which recognized the growing public concern about crimes committed by persons on pretrial release. This Act placed the consideration of community safety on a equal footing with the consideration of the likelihood of appearance as factors in the court's pretrial release decisions. While underscoring the basic tents of the Bail reform Act of 1966, notably the elimination of reliance on financial conditions only, this legislation recognized community safety as a legitimate consideration in pretrial release decisions by Judicial Officers.

In New Jersey, the functions of Pretrial Services were performed by the Probation Department until 1986 when Chief Judge Clarkson Fisher and the Board of Judges decided to establish an independent Pretrial Services Agency to meet the growing number of cases within the district and reduce the burden on the Probation Department. This decision was in line with the decisions made in many large districts where additional personnel and resources were needed to adequately provide the investigatory and supervisory services that were envisioned by the Pretrial Services Act of 1982.

In 1987, the first Chief U.S. Pretrial Services Officer, John B. Martorana, was selected by the Court. Martorana had been the Deputy Chief of the Probation Department in the District of New Jersey until that time. He was joined by Thomas A. Henry who had previously served in both Probation and Pretrial Services in the Southern and Eastern Districts of New York prior to transferring to the District of New Jersey. During that first year, they assembled a staff of officers and support personnel working out of the Probation Office in Newark. They subsequently secured space in the Rodino Building and in the Trenton and Camden Courthouses. By the beginning of 1988, in addition to Martorana and Henry, there were five Pretrial Services Officers serving the three courthouses. In 1991, Pretrial Services in Newark relocated to the Martin Luther King Federal Building. In Camden, space was secured at the North 7th Street facility and subsequently Pretrial returned to the Courthouse upon completion of renovations of the old building. As a result of the increase in criminal filings within the district when Martorana retired in 1994, there were sixteen Pretrial Services Officers. Upon Martorana's retirement, the Court selected Thomas A. Henry as the Chief U.S. Pretrial Services Officer. Besides Henry, there are now twenty-eight Pretrial Services Officers who service the Court in Newark, Camden, Trenton, Fort Dix and Fort Monmouth.