Blog Archives

Whether you are a long-time PJI newsletter reader who still has hard copies of The Pretrial Reporter, a first-time visitor wondering what pretrial justice is all about or even someone who thinks things are just fine the way they are in our money-based bail system, thank you for caring enough about pretrial justice to take the time to engage with us.

2016_11_23_blogSometimes it seems like our society, nation and world are divided in ways we’re unsure how to bridge. Things seem less civil now than in times gone by. But one way in which we at PJI believe we are all united is in our shared commitment to improving justice. Even if we disagree on what real justice looks like or how to achieve it, at PJI we start with the premise that you want a pretrial justice system that is safe, fair and effective. We start there and keep moving forward, through the good days and the bad. (more…)

While most eyes were focused on Tuesday's presidential and congressional races, at least two measures passed at the state level that will help improve pretrial

In New Mexico voters approved a Constitutional Amendment to prohibit the detention of defendants who aren’t deemed dangerous or a flight risk, solely because they are unable to pay money bail. It also allows judges to deny bail when there is clear evidence that a defendant poses unmanageable risks if released while awaiting trial. With this new legal framework established, New Mexico takes a big step toward safer, fairer and more effective pretrial justice.  (more…)

 PJI on the Road

Cherise Fanno Burdeen and Dianne Beer-Maxwell check in from the 2016 IACP Conference in San Diego. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter to learn more.

Guest Blog by Larry Schwartztol, Executive Director, Criminal Justice Policy Program at Harvard Law School

larryThe system of money bail is at a crossroads. It remains a dominant tool for administering the pretrial process around the country—a totally normalized and nearly ubiquitous practice despite obvious concerns when freedom is tied to wealth. Yet the tide appears ready to turn. Media outlets from the New York Times to Last Week Tonight with John Oliver have shined a bright spotlight on the pathologies of money bail. A wave of federal civil rights lawsuits have challenged the operation of money bail around the country, from small jurisdictions in Alabama, Georgia, and Missouri, to San Francisco and Massachusetts. And the U.S. Justice Department has become a forceful voice for reform, through court filings (see here and here) emphasizing core constitutional principles and a recent Dear Colleagues letter that went to every state chief justice and state court administrator in the country.  (more…)

Laura. Yolanda. Tierne. Zeljka. These are the names of four women who paid the ultimate price because of failed money bail systems. And “price” is the right word. Their attackers all had been recently arrested for serious physical abuse against the women, and were in the community after paying money bail for their release. blog-imageThe amount each man paid ranged from $5,000 to $100,000. But no amount would have been enough to protect Laura, Yolanda, Tierne, or Zeljka.

The money bail set in these cases was insufficient not because the men were wealthy or the judges set it too low. It wasn’t enough because money bail does nothing to protect public or individual safety. In fact, in cases of domestic or intimate partner violence, an abuser who has shelled out thousands of dollars for pretrial release may be more set on exacting retribution. (more…)

By Cherise Fanno Burdeen

Zero-Based Thinking (ZBT) is an exercise for businesses and organizations looking to improve part or all of their practices. ZBT starts with a simple question: “if I could do it over again, from the beginning, what would I do differently?” By leading “back to zero”—that point where the practices in question began— CFB New 2016 webZBT can be an effective tool for escaping conventional thinking and re-imagining one’s work afresh.

Were I to go “back to zero” to change one fundamental thing about pretrial justice in the U.S. I would, without hesitation, get rid of using money as a condition for pretrial release. Nearly every aspect of today’s pretrial challenges can be traced to money bail: (more…)

Yes, summer is over and it’s back-to-school time—for the kiddos and for you! The University of Pretrial (UP) has the perfect way to ease back into your work improving pretrial justice.unnamed

This afternoon (Wednesday August 31, 2016) UP is hosting a webinar on Pretrial Justice: The National Landscape, featuring PJI’s CEO, Cherise Fanno Burdeen. This event will provide a quick snapshot of what the landscape of pretrial justice looks like from our point of view, followed by an online discussion via UP.

And, it’s free! Just register here and log in at 2 pm EDT to participate.

We know you are all star students and want to come to class prepared, so below are some key activities you might have missed during the summer. (more…)

In this week’s vlog, hear PJI’s Director of Learning Innovations, Meghan Guevara, talk about the University of Pretrial and the opportunities it presents for you and your professional communities. For more information visit,

In our first vlog, PJI CEO Cherise Fanno Burdeen discusses the importance of voting in local elections as a way to help advance pretrial justice reform. For more information, visit

Guest blog by Charlotte McPherson Manager, Pretrial Services, State of Kentucky

Life, liberty and…supervision? Not sure our founding fathers would have approved. We can speculate on the thoughts or intent of those drafting our ConMcPherson_Charlottestitution, but when they penned “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” one would hope they meant it.

Conditions of supervision placed on people who have been arrested and released from custody before trial can greatly impair their liberty and, as such, should be used minimally and only to achieve specific ends. In Kentucky, we follow this notion and use supervision sparingly, with excellent results.

Jailing people accused of crimes can be a costly endeavor, but so can releasing them and placing them on supervision. For example, drug testing and electronic monitoring are not cheap, nor is the pretrial officer’s time that is required to monitor compliance for these and other pieces of supervision. With tightening budgets for pretrial programs, defendants are increasingly required to cover the cost of their own drug testing, electronic monitoring, and other forms of supervision that may accompany release. In some cases, the cost of money bail would have been cheaper for the defendant than the cost of their supervision in the long term. (more…)