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…)


Guest blog by Stephen Handelman, Director of the Center on Media, Crime and Justice at John Jay College, and executive editor of The Crime Report

In an era of fake news and alternative facts, accurate reporting has never been more important—especially in criminal justice. Justice reporters in particular are called upon to digest and interpret new developments and research. They’re crucial players in the ongoing national debate about how to fix our justice system, but even the best ones can find it hard to get up to speed quickly. This is especially true with topics like pretrial and bail reform, which suffer from both widespread misunderstanding and misinformation.

For more than a decade, the Center on Media, Crime and Justice at John Jay College (CMCJ) has brought together journalists, policymakers and practitioners to discuss emerging criminal justice topics in an effort to target that critical gap between reporting and research. More than 800 journalists from around the country have participated in our symposia and workshops on issues ranging from mass incarceration and policing reform to pretrial justice. Our “flagship” annual John Jay/Harry Frank Guggenheim Symposium on Crime in America just ended recently. Entitled “Justice in the Trump Era: The State of American Criminal Justice (2017 and Beyond),” it involved more than two dozen journalists along with top scholars, practitioners and thought leaders. We were especially honored to include the Pretrial Justice Institute’s CEO, Cherise Fanno Burdeen, on a panel called “Jail or Bail: Rethinking Pretrial Justice.”   (more…)


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…)