Heroin deaths up, heroin convictions down, police stymied: NJ lawmakers need to step in

Heroin deaths up, heroin convictions down, police stymied: NJ lawmakers need to step in (JEFF EDELSTEIN COLUMN)


“Bail reform is a disaster,” this very level-headed officer told me. “Part of bail reform was to keep non-violent offenders out of jail, and that’s good, but it’s turned into is catch and release for most drug dealers. The people committing these drug offenses have become comfortable with bail reform. They know they’re getting released. There’s no deterrent for repeating offenders.”

(Excerpt from the Trentonian - June 18 2019)

Correlation does not imply causation and all that, but in this case, come on.

In 2018, there were 3,118 drug overdose deaths in New Jersey, according to the National Institutes of Health.

In 2018, there were 2,717 adults locked up in New Jersey prisons on drug offenses, according to the state’s Department of Corrections. The DOC notes “virtually all” of those jailed were guilty of sale and distribution, and not just possession. The number, however, is not broken down by what drug they were dishing. Could be heroin; could be cocaine; could be marijuana.

OK. So those are the numbers. In 2018, 3,118 drug deaths, 2,717 people in jail for drugs.

Now lets hit the rewind button. Let’s go back to 2012.

In 2012, there were 1,223 overdose deaths in the state.

And there were 5,224 people locked up for drugs.

In a six year period, drug deaths nearly tripled, and drug incarcerations were nearly cut in half.

You’ll never convince me those numbers aren’t related, especially considering drug deaths went up every single year since 2012 and people jailed for drugs went down every single year since 2012.

And it’s only getting worse. More people dying, less people being jailed for providing the means to the death.

The new culprit? Bail reform. I spoke with a police officer about this last year, went back to the same guy this year. Same story.

“Bail reform is a disaster,” this very level-headed officer told me. “Part of bail reform was to keep non-violent offenders out of jail, and that’s good, but it’s turned into is catch and release for most drug dealers. The people committing these drug offenses have become comfortable with bail reform. They know they’re getting released. There’s no deterrent for repeating offenders.”

To be clear: This officer said unless the dealers are wanted for other, even more serious offenses, they are getting picked up, brought in front of a judge via video the next day, and released usually that afternoon.

“We’ll arrest them on one corner, and they’ll be back on that same corner in 48 hours,” the officer said.

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