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Litigation has been a successful strategy in challenging longstanding money bail practices across the country. In just a few years groups like Civil Rights Corps and Equal Justice Under Law have changed the pretrial legal landscape, resulting in more equitable treatment of arrested individuals.

The for-profit bail industry has been active in fighting these cases and has now put its weight (and money) behind two legal challenges against recent pretrial system improvements in New Jersey and New Mexico. 

We recommend you read the complaints (linked here and here) and assess each case for yourself. Before you make up your mind about the merits of these cases, however, we’d like to add some context. Both hinge on two key notions. The first is the “option of bail”—defined by bail industry proponents as the option to pay a financial bond for one’s pretrial release. The second notion concerns the imposition of “pre-arraignment restraints”—characterized in the complaints as release conditions, such as home detention or electronic monitoring, that seek to limit the movement of certain individuals as they await trial in the community. (more…)

 

A lot of folks are talking about “risk assessment” these days. And that’s good. But it’s important that everyone is clear about what it means (and doesn’t mean) when we use this term. At PJI, risk assessment is almost always accompanied by a handful of other words: pretrial, evidence-based, and actuarial. Here’s why:

Pretrial—The criminal justice system uses risk assessment at different times for a variety of purposes—including decisions about sentencing, incarceration security levels, and conditions for post-adjudication supervision. Needs assessments are a completely separate evaluation done to determine whether an individual might benefit from supports such as substance use or behavioral health treatment—which is important when crafting a good support structure for adjudicated people who may benefit from treatment. Among all of the points at which risk is being assessed, pretrial risk stands out because it focuses on measuring only two specific behaviors—court appearance and rearrest—during a specific time frame—between arrest and trial. As such, the factors used to determine pretrial risk level (e.g., prior convictions) and the comparison cases (similar people released before trial in the recent past) are far more limited than those used in other risk assessments. This makes pretrial tools and their results much more accurate. (more…)

 

By Cherise Fanno Burdeen, chief executive officer

Last week, U.S. Senators Kamala Harris and Rand Paul introduced SB 1539, the Pretrial Integrity and Safety Act of 2017, which encourages states to move away from money bond and ensure they are using legal and evidence-based pretrial justice practices. We were delighted to have been able to support the drafters of this bill and to work with partner organizations to gather up support. This is a bipartisan effort, sponsored by two senators with pretrial justice wins at home—California is poised to pass sweeping legislation (Assembly Bill 42 and Senate Bill 10) and Kentucky was the first state to deploy the Arnold Foundation’s Public Safety Assessment statewide.

Why does it matter if Congress weighs in on bail reform? Isn’t bail a state and local function? (more…)

 

“Planet Money,” NPR’s popular podcast (“The Economy Explained”), recently explored New Jersey’s shift away from money-based pretrial justice. Episode 783: New Jersey Bails Out is worth listening to and sharing with anyone who wants to understand this historic change—which is rapidly becoming a model for the nation.

In less than 20 minutes, Joel Rose and Keith Romer expose the injustice of detaining low-risk poor and working class people who cannot afford bail and the dangers of releasing higher-risk people who can. They also explain the basics of pretrial risk assessment, and highlights why, in just a few months, the new system has been so successful.

NPR’s reporting complements Improving Pretrial Justice in New Jersey, a candid interview with one of the architects of the new system that PJI produced as part of the 3DaysCount campaign to set a new standard for pretrial justice in America.  
(more…)

 

A new report out of San Francisco underscores—once again—how money bail fails the jurisdictions that use it and the people forced to pay for their liberty.

Do the Math: Money Bail Doesn’t Add Up for San Francisco, issued by the Office of the Treasurer & Tax Collector of the City & County, details how the city’s current practices create a two-tiered system—one for those with money and another for those without—that siphons wealth away from the poorest communities and into the pockets of predatory, poorly regulated corporate surety companies. (more…)

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