Blog Archives

For Immediate Release: March 15, 2016

Contact: Fiona Druge,, (646) 755-6126


Department of Justice urges state court judges to reform fines, fees and money bail system that unfairly punishes the poor 


Washington, DC— In a letter to state court judges and administrators released yesterday, the Department of Justice called on states to avoid using the court system as a money-making venture and to curb pretrial policies that keep nonviolent offenders trapped in a cycle of debt and unnecessary incarceration. The letter, authored by Vanita Gupta, the Department’s top civil rights prosecutor, and Lisa Foster, Director of the Office for Access to Justice, specifically urges states to consider transitioning away from pretrial justice systems based on money bail alone towards more effective pretrial risk assessment programs.

Following the release of the Department of Justice’s letter, Cherise Fanno Burdeen, executive director of the Pretrial Justice Institute, issued the following statement:

“Yesterday, the Department of Justice brought an authoritative voice to the growing movement  to reform money bail systems in states across the nation. We’ve seen rampant unnecessary jail time in Ferguson, Baltimore, and thousands of other places as a result of money bail and the use fees and fines to pad municipal budgets. (more…)

For Immediate Release: March 9, 2016
Contact: Fiona Druge,, (646) 755-6126

Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye of the California Supreme Court highlighted the need for reform in her annual State of the Judiciary address this week  

Sacramento, CA—During the state of California’s annual State of the Judiciary address today, Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye of the California Supreme Court called for reform of the bail system and put a spotlight the state’s efforts to develop alternatives to holding people on bail, declaring, “We need more pretrial release programs to balance safety against the need to post bail. We must not penalize the poor for being poor.” In her remarks, Chief Justice Cantil-Sakauye highlighted the California state court system’s new programs in 12 local courts to place nonviolent people under supervision after arrest, rather than holding them in jail awaiting bail.

Following Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye’s address, Cherise Fanno Burdeen, executive director of the Pretrial Justice Institute, issued the following statement:


For Immediate Release: February 24, 2016

Contact: Robin Campbell,, 917.434.6343


Washington, DC -- Federal legislation is being introduced today that will end the use of money bail throughout the United States. The historic No More Money Bail Act of 2016, proposed by Congressman Ted Lieu (CA - 33), would prohibit the use of money bail in the federal justice system and also deny Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grants to any state that continues to use monetary payment as a condition of pretrial release.

Cherise Fanno Burdeen, executive director of the Pretrial Justice Institute, issued the following statement in support of the No More Money Bail Act of 2016:

“The Pretrial Justice Institute enthusiastically supports this legislation because America needs overarching bail reform. All across this nation, too many nonviolent people are stuck in jail pretrial because they are too poor to post money bail. (more…)

For Immediate Release: January 26, 2016
Contact: Robin Campbell,, 917.434-6343


Washington, DC — In an Op-Ed published in today's Washington Post, President Obama condemns the rampant use of solitary confinement in United States jails and prisons. As an example he cites the case of Kalief Browder, a young man who spent nearly two years in solitary confinement in New York City's Rikers Island jail facility only to see the original charges against him dropped.  Browder, who took his own life soon after his release, was in jail pretrial because he could not afford a $3000 money bail.  

The Pretrial Justice Institute issued the following statement in response to the president’s Op-Ed, from executive director Cherise Fanno Burdeen:

“But for the broken bail system in New York, Kalief Browder would not have been in jail in the first place and would never have seen a solitary confinement cell.”

“President Obama is right to condemn the rampant use of solitary confinement, but the original sin against Kalief Browder was requiring him to pay money in order to be released from jail while his case was pending.  

“The U.S. money bail system punishes the poor, keeping lower risk people in jail where their lives get destabilized, making them more likely to commit crimes once released—while wealthy defendants, including many who are dangerous, walk free.   (more…)

For Immediate Release: December 10, 2015

Contact: Christina DiPasquale,, 202.716.1953

Ex-husband Had Been Released on Bail After a History of Violence Against Her

Yesterday, Zeljka Sekulic, an Ohio mother of two, was shot to death outside of her job at Astoria Skilled Nursing and Rehabilitation facility in Canton. Following a five-hour manhunt, her ex-husband was arrested in connection with the crime. He had been released from jail and was awaiting trial for leaving his ex-wife injured in a car crash less than two weeks earlier. He reportedly secured his release by paying a bail bondsman $10,000--ten percent of a $100,000 bond.

Said Cherise Fanno Burdeen, executive director of the Pretrial Justice Institute:

“A woman died because a judge hoped $100,000 bail would be enough to keep her dangerous ex-husband in jail. It wasn’t.

"Our hearts go out to Zeljka Sekulic’s two children, who lost their mother, allegedly shot to death by her ex-husband who had a documented history of violence against her over the previous year. The judge’s guess that a payment of $100,000 would keep him in custody, or keep him in line if he paid his way out, was a tragic mistake that underscores the inherent failings of cash bail and the need to make detention decisions based on risk, not money. (more…)

For Immediate Release: December 7, 2015
Contact: Christina DiPasquale,, 202.716.1953

Minaj Posts $100K Bail for Brother, Who is Released Despite Brutal Charges

Late last week the brother of Nicki Minaj, Jelani Maraj, was arrested on charges of child rape—then released shortly thereafter despite potential risk when Minaj posted $100,000 bond on his behalf. Maraj was arraigned Thursday at Nassau University Medical Center. According to court documents, the bail was handled by celebrity bail bondsman Ira Judelson, whose cases include Dominique Straus Kahn’s $6 million bail bond.

Jelani Maraj is facing charges of first-degree rape and first-degree sexual conduct against a child in Nassau County.

Said Cherise Fanno Burdeen, executive director of Pretrial Justice Institute:

“When someone is accused of child rape, money should never determine whether we allow that person back on the streets before trial. Here’s a guy who is facing serious charges of a violent assault and who, because of a wealthy sister and a bondsman to the stars greasing the system, was released from custody. All over the country we are releasing potentially dangerous wealthy people and detaining poor people-- simply because of money and not risk. Cash bail doesn’t work, it goes against our constitutional guarantee of equal treatment, and it makes us all less safe. (more…)

For Immediate Release: December 1, 2015

Contact: Christina DiPasquale, 202.716.1953,


Statement from Pretrial Justice Institute Executive Director Cherise Fanno Burdeen on the release of Officer Jason Van Dyke in Chicago today:

"When a person accused of a fatal shooting is released from jail simply because he has access to money—$150,000 in the case of Officer Van Dyke—it undermines trust in our justice system as well as our public safety.

"Jason Van Dyke’s special treatment by nearly every level of Chicago government is a slap in the face to families of the thousands of Chicagoans who pose little risk but are trapped in jails pretrial because they can’t afford cash bail.

"Nearly 90% of Cook County’s jails are filled with people detained pretrial and, if national research is any guide, a vast majority of those people are there because, unlike Jason Van Dyke, they aren’t wealthy or connected. Most people are simply too poor to afford cash bail, leading to lost wages, housing, jobs, and even lives.

"Cash bail doesn’t work, it goes against our constitutional guarantee of equal treatment, and it makes us all less safe. (more…)

For Immediate Release: October 26, 2015
Contact: Molly Haigh, 907-750-1999,

Pretrial Justice Institute’s 3DaysCountTM Campaign Will Push State and Local Governments to Cut the Pipeline to Mass Incarceration with Commonsense Pretrial Reforms

Washington, DC-- Today, the Pretrial Justice Institute announced an ambitious national campaign to change the way our nation approaches criminal justice before trial. The 3DaysCountTM campaign aims to replace cash bail, reduce arrests, and cut pretrial detentions in 20 states by 2020. The campaign comes on the heels of a number of tragic and high-profile deaths of people who had been in jail because they couldn’t afford bail, including Sandra Bland and Kalief Browder.

For more information on the 3DaysCountTM campaign:

Pretrial detention also contributes to mass incarceration; compared to released defendants with similar backgrounds, defendants who spend the full pretrial period in jail are more likely to be convicted and sentenced to jail or prison, and for longer periods of time.3DaysCountTM was inspired by the U.S. Department of Justice’s Ferguson report, which revealed that many people received no credit for time spent in jail pretrial because, as one city official put it, “it’s only three days.” Research shows just three days in jail can be ruinous for many: they make a person far more likely to commit a future crime, even if they were innocent in the first place, and can lead to loss of wages, jobs, housing, and both physical and mental health issues. (more…)

For Immediate Release: October 22, 2015
Contact: Christina DiPasquale,, 202.716.1953

Pretrial Justice Institute: Time for the Administration to Join the Fight to Replace Cash Bail with Detention Based on Risk

Washington, DC-- Today, at 2pm, President Obama is slated join The Marshall Project in a White House conversation on criminal justice reform with law enforcement leaders. The Pretrial Justice Institute issued the following statement in advance, from executive director Cherise Fanno Burdeen:

“There is no way to solve our nation’s mass incarceration problem without addressing cash bail, which keeps poor, low-risk people behind bars while wealthier and dangerous defendants go free. Detaining millions of potentially innocent Americans every year for money, before trial and before any conviction, is blatantly unconstitutional. It not only costs taxpayers billions of dollars a year, but it also makes residents and law enforcement officers less safe because it destabilizes lives, making it more likely individuals will commit future offenses.

“It’s time for the Obama administration to have a real conversation about the commonsense solution to this problem: replacing cash bail with detention based on risk, leaving only people who pose a grave danger to our communities in jail before trial. Americans have seen far too many tragic deaths of innocent individuals in jail for minor offenses, like Sandra Bland, because they couldn’t afford cash bail. This is a problem we can fix and it is an essential part of any discussion focused on real criminal justice reform.” (more…)

For Immediate Release: September 29, 2015

Contact: Molly Haigh, 907-750-1999,

Pretrial Justice Institute: Philly Jail is the Tip of the Iceberg, Nation’s Jails are Full of Poor, Unconvicted Americans

Philadelphia, PA-- In anticipation of Pope Francis’ visit to the Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility in Philadelphia today, the Pretrial Justice Institute issued the following statement from Executive Director Cherise Fanno Burdeen:

“As the Pope prays with and for the many poor and unconvicted people in his Philadelphia jail visit, we hope his prayers extend to the 60% of people in jail nationwide who have not yet gotten a trial. Millions of Americans are incarcerated every year before trial, most because they are simply too poor to afford cash bail. In America, rich people can buy their liberty before trial, while the poor languish behind bars.

“The time has come to fix this great wrong, and to replace cash bail with assessments of risk. Detaining someone before trial should only be done in extreme cases where an individual or community is in danger, and should never be based on money. We hope the Pope’s visit inspires the city of Philadelphia, and the nation, to move beyond cash bail.” (more…)