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Earlier this month, PJI released an edited interview with Roseanne Scotti, New Jersey state director of the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) and one of the leaders of the successful effort to pass sweeping pretrial legislation in 2014. Improving Pretrial Justice in New Jersey offers a candid assessment of the challenges the New Jersey coalition faced and the elements that led to their success.

These include

  • the importance of forming a broad-based coalition of support in the early stages of improvement efforts,
  • listening closely to the concerns and fears of stakeholders and communities, and
  • being ready for the influential and well-financed opposition from the bail industry.

All are useful lessons for other states and localities pursuing similar, much-needed changes.

Since the new laws went into effect in January, (more…)

 

Every day, all across America, women are arrested and detained unnecessarily for no reason other than their inability to purchase their release using money bail. Many care for families that must endure their absence and scramble to find money in order to see them released.

This year a coalition of nearly 20 advocacy and social justice organizations are stepping up to do something about the problem. In the week prior to Mother’s Day, the groups will take part in National Mama’s Bail Out Day, a coordinated effort initiated by the Atlanta-based Southerners On New Ground, which developed the idea after noticing how many women were in jail unconvicted.
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A new study from Texas A&M University reveals some striking comparisons between two Texas counties with very different approaches to pretrial release decisionmaking: Tarrant County, which relies almost exclusively on money bail, and Travis County, which relies largely on validated risk assessment to inform release decisions without financial requirements. The study has significant implications for Texas, where only five counties out of 254 report using a validated risk assessment.

The study, conducted at the request of the Texas Judicial Council’s Criminal Justice Committee, analyzed 3.5 years of criminal case data from both counties. Major findings include, (more…)

 

American University’s Justice Programs Office held a summit last week on how the criminal justice community can continue to improve their systems by redefining practices and outcomes. Maintaining Momentum: Redefining the Purpose of Incarceration in the Ongoing Conversations about Criminal Justice Reform included speakers and attendees from all parts of the criminal justice spectrum, including law enforcement, pretrial services, defenders, judges, community advocates, and formerly incarcerated individuals.

Members of AU's Justice Programs Office with keynote speaker Glenn Martin.

The panel topics were wide-ranging, but several themes emerged, including

  • People who come through criminal justice systems must be humanized;
  • Justice systems need to reassess and redefine success; and
  • Reform initiatives must recognize the importance of state and local action.

(more…)

 

Guest blog by Michael King, Director of Outreach & Engagement, Facing Addiction

The so-called War on Drugs, now in its fourth decade, has cost over $1 trillion and led to nearly 45 million arrests. As a result—and not surprisingly—the majority of the 65 million Americans with criminal records have struggled with a substance use disorder at some point in their lives. Yet accidental drug overdoses are now the leading cause of preventable death in America. 

One doesn’t need a deep knowledge of public policy to realize that arresting our way out of the addiction problem has not been, and will never be, successful.

Finally, a national non-profit organization is developing responses to America’s addiction crisis that can succeed—from presenting healthcare-related solutions to working with stakeholders in the critical area of criminal justice reform. (more…)

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