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Few people would imagine Utah as a hotspot for bail reform. But the state’s legislature recently published a scathing critique of how the for-profit money bond industry operates there. It’s called A Performance Audit of Utah’s Monetary Bail System, and it is worth the read. Because what happens in Utah is probably happening where you live, too. 

The report describes the results from a review conducted by the benign-sounding Office of the Legislative Auditor General into the effectiveness of monetary pretrial release conditions in the state. Specifically, they examined cash bail—which requires arrested people to pay the full amount of a bond to the court prior to release—and surety bond—which allows arrested people to pay a percentage of the bail amount to a for-profit bail bondsman. (more…)

 

For several months, PJI has been promising that our upcoming Worldwide Pretrial Innovators Convention, or Pi-Con, will be different, special, and “unlike any other justice gathering you’ve been to.” Now that Pi-Con is just six weeks away, it’s time we explain exactly why it will be so unique. 

For starters, Pi-Con is a convention, not a conference. Conferences involve a lot of sitting, listening, and one-way information flow—the “good stuff” usually happens during breaks and evenings. At Pi-Con, you’ll be part of the action all day, developing solutions to major issues, honing your skills, and challenging yourself at “Pretrial Bootcamp.”

For example, you will hear Jessica Jackson from #cut50 talk about pretrial and mass incarceration in the “UP Incubator,” then share your perspective in our video booth. In the “Action Lab,” you’ll meet practitioners who have been successful in the field, and then work with them on practical strategies you can bring back to your system. We have even invited select members of the media to participate so they can ask more probing questions about the current system and proposed changes. (more…)

 

New Jersey’s sweeping and long-awaited bail reforms passed a crucial final hurdle just before New Year’s when the state’s little-known Council on Local Mandates, which has the power to invalidate legislation it considers an “unfunded mandate,” denied a challenge to the new law from the New Jersey Association of Counties (NJAC).  sealofnewjerseystateseal

Pretrial justice improvements like those in New Jersey will almost always encounter resistance: arguments about public safety, costs, constitutionality and, ironically, issues of fairness. Almost all of these objections can probably be traced back to the for-profit bail bonding industry lobbyists’ playbook.

New Jersey’s successful rebuttal reminds us that steadfast arguments based in reason and evidence—forcefully articulated by a broad coalition—can win the day. (more…)

 

The new year affords us an opportunity to look back and ahead, to reflect and imagine. In 2017, PJI’s Board of Directors will welcome a new board chair—Chris Rodgers, a county commissioner from Douglas County, Nebraska. So, we asked outgoing chair Gary Raney and outgoing vice chair Cliff Keenan—two pretrial champions who have given invaluable service to PJI —to look back on their time with us and to think about the future of pretrial justice.


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Guest blog by Marie VanNostrand, Ph.D., Justice Project Manager, Luminosity

Several years ago I coined the term ‘resource-based vs. risk-based’ to describe the two primary systems of pretrial release in our country. One system relies on a defendant’s financial resources to determine if they are released or detained pretrial; the other relies on that defendant’s risk of failing to appear in court and the danger they pose to the community.   2016_12_7_marie-vannostrand_lg_sq 

Remarkably, the volume of evidence against a resource-based system has quietly accumulated for a century or longer. Yet, as the volume of evidence supporting a risk-based system has increased exponentially over the past five years, the concern over the potential for risk assessments to perpetuate racial bias has inexplicably begun to overshadow their benefits and to slow pretrial reform efforts. The concern that risk assessments can perpetuate the existing racial bias in our criminal justice system was raised to the national stage in 2014 by then Attorney General Eric Holder and, although I suspect unintentionally, has become a key argument against pretrial reform. (more…)

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