Blog Archives

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…)

By Jane Wiseman and Stephen Goldsmith

This guest post, re-posted from Data Smart City Solutions site of the Ash Center for Democratic Governance at the Harvard Kennedy School, is an expanded version of a column that originally appeared on

Few opportunities produce such dramatic better faster cheaper savings for cities and their counties than those that surround pretrial detention. We’re wasting $3 billion a year, often inducing crime and job loss, by holding the wrong people while they await trial.  The problem: only 10% of jurisdictions use risk data analytics when deciding which defendants should be detained. As a result, dangerous people are out in our communities while many who could be safely in the community are behind bars.  Vast numbers accused of petty offenses spend their pretrial detention time jailed alongside hardened convicts, learning from them how to be better criminals.

Ideally, deciding who should be in jail and who can safely be released would be based on the individual’s risk of not showing up for court and their risk of committing a crime while awaiting trial.  Instead, the deciding factor is often the defendant’s pocketbook – those who have the money for bail (including those who are more successful criminals) get out, while the rest remain in jail.  Nearly half of Americans don’t have $400 for emergencies – if they get arrested, that half of our population is going to stay in jail until trial or a guilty plea. (more…)

The Fourth of July—Independence Day—reminds us that life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are supposed to be “inalienable” rights that cannot be taken away. We know, however, that liberty is a right that can be taken away. After all, the US has more than 2.3 million people currently incarcerated in prisons, jails, and detention facilities. So, liberty suddenly seems a lot more “alienable.” 

wonder womanMost of us accept that individuals convicted of serious offenses may be deprived of their liberty as punishment (though how much we incarcerate is the subject of ongoing debate). But what about people who have only been accused of crimes? When is it permissible to deprive unconvicted people of their Constitutional right to liberty?

In 1987 the US Supreme Court examined that very question and ruled that it is allowable—albeit with strict due process and oversight—to detain unconvicted people who demonstrate an unmanageable risk to public safety. (more…)

By Spike Bradford, editor-in-chief

Last Sunday was Father’s Day; when children and fathers around the country take time to cherish the special bond that men can have with theirshutterstock_107282414 kids. But children of incarcerated fathers aren’t able to celebrate the way they should—with hugs and ballgames.

It is a tragedy when a father is convicted of a crime and incarcerated, leaving a child or children without a dad for months or years. This moving video of digital “love letters” from kids to their imprisoned fathers is evidence enough that while these men are paying for their crimes, their children are paying as well.

It is perhaps even more tragic when fathers who are legally innocent are unnecessarily incarcerated. But we know, of the nearly 500,000 unconvicted people currently in US jails, a large percentage are fathers. (more…)

By Cherise Fanno Burdeen, executive director, Pretrial Justice Institute

This was a big week in PJI-land. On June 2nd, we announced the first of the 3DaysCount™ sites!

Bikers patchGuam is an unincorporated island territory of the United States, located in the South Pacific with a population of 161,785 (roughly the same as Fort Lauderdale, FL) and average daily temperature of 81.4 degrees. To reach Guam from Los Angeles—the closest point in the continental U.S.—takes almost a full twenty-four hours of travel, stopping in Hawaii or Tokyo. It has a unique culture, blending Chamorro traditions and urban life, and might seem like an island paradise for those of us on the “mainland.”

However, when it comes to pretrial justice, Guam is not much different than most other jurisdictions in the U.S. Arrested people are subject to broad discretionary bail setting practices and face detention based on their access to money rather than their pretrial risk. The territory faces jail crowding problems, pressure to increase jail and prison capacity, and the mandates of a longstanding federal consent decree related to the provision of healthcare in Guam’s correctional facilities. And like many jurisdictions, they have a desire to find pretrial justice solutions through thoughtful and evidence-based approaches.


Three research reports released earlier this month add substantially to what we know about the harms caused by money bail. Research is crucial to building momentum for reform and countering the still-too-common notion that bail reform addresses “a problem we're not sure exists.”

flow_chartHere is that latest research showing—yet again—that there IS a problem, and it is money bail:

The Heavy Costs of High Bail: Evidence from Judge Randomization, a Columbia Law and Economics Working Paper, describes how assigning money bail to people accused of crime in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh increases the likelihood of conviction by 12% and increases recidivism by 4%. The authors found that the use of money bail is not effective—it “does not seem to increase the probability that a defendant appears at trial,” and actually makes us all less safe. (more…)

The International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) recently released a report on important research they conducted—with support from the Laura and John Arnold Foundation (LJAF)—on law enforcement’s use of citations as an alternative to arrest.

IACP_blogThe Pretrial Justice Working Group identified issuing citations in lieu of a custodial arrest as a crucial early decision point in the pretrial process. By reducing the number of people formally booked into local jails, the practice improves both system and officer efficiency. Along with similar strategies to divert individuals accused of low-level and nonviolent offenses from incarceration, it is key to making  pretrial justice safer, fairer, and more effective. Why?

The act of custodial booking creates the pretrial release or detain decision point. (more…)