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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…)

 

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…)

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