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OP-ED Justice Reimagined: Atlantic County's Fusion of Firmness, Reform

Atlantic County

By: Richard L. Smith 

Since June 2022, the Atlantic County Prosecutor's Office has embraced a balanced approach to criminal justice, intertwining stringent prosecution with progressive reforms.Real EstateThis method reflects the office's commitment to justice, characterized by compassion, empathy, conviction, integrity, and an understanding of both the victim and the defendant.

In terms of prosecution, the office has seen notable success, securing guilty verdicts in 19 of 20 jury trials, with one verdict later overturned.

Concurrently, ACPO has emphasized empathy, fairness, and rehabilitation through various initiatives and the creation of diversion programs.

These efforts aim to reduce recidivism and offer second chances, thus enhancing public safety and providing individuals with opportunities for recovery, employment, and education.

Entering 2023, the office focused on clearing the backlog of expungements, processing over 7,200 cases in just over a year. This initiative offers individuals new opportunities for employment and education, contributing to a more inclusive and equitable society.


ACPO's approach to Criminal Justice Reform, particularly Bail Reform in New Jersey, has been effective. Critical decisions on whether to issue a summons or warrant at the time of arrest have significant implications.Real EstateIn 2023, Atlantic County had the second-lowest percentage of criminal complaints placed on warrants in New Jersey. Of 4,819 defendants, 72% were issued a summons, while 28% were placed on warrants.

Out of 1,349 defendants jailed on warrants in Atlantic County, 686 were detained, representing a 50.9% detention rate – the highest in the state and significantly above the state average of 19.8%.

The high rate of detention motions filed (99%) and the low number of withdrawals emphasize the importance of initial decision-making in the summons versus warrant complaint stage.

This decision-making process, crucial for societal well-being, balances the individual's right to liberty against community safety needs. Detaining violent individuals likely to harm others or themselves prioritizes public safety.

The results are evident in the reduction of gun violence in both Atlantic County and statewide. In 2023, New Jersey witnessed its lowest total of people shot in 15 years, a 13% decrease from 2022 and an 8% reduction in homicides due to gun violence.

Ultimately, the Atlantic County Prosecutor's Office's approach not only upholds public safety but also fosters a system that is fair and rehabilitative, reflecting a commitment to justice in its fullest sense.

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SOURCE: OP-ED Atlantic County Prosecutor Mr. William E. Reynolds