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For Immediate Release: May 3, 2017
Contact: Fiona Druge,,

Texas Federal Judge Rules County’s Money Bail System is Unconstitutional

In response to a ruling from Chief U.S. District Judge Lee H. Rosenthal ordering Harris County, Texas to stop jailing people before trial on misdemeanor charges simply because they could not afford bail, Cherise Fanno Burdeen, chief executive officer of the Pretrial Justice Institute, issued the following statement:

This landmark ruling is a turning point for Harris County and the work to improve pretrial systems across this county. It shows that the courts recognize not only what many people within the criminal justice system know—that detaining low-risk, legally innocent people because they cannot afford their freedom is costly and ineffective—but also that using money to determine who stays in jail and who gets released is a violation of the Constitution’s basic guarantees of due process and equal protection. The ruling finds Harris County doesn’t have a reasonable basis to believe that money bail ensures better pretrial outcomes, and orders Harris County to release misdemeanor defendants.

“There is still work to be done to make Harris County’s pretrial justice system safer, fairer, and more effective, but other jurisdictions should take note of this ruling. It’s time for more cities, counties, and states to take meaningful action to improve their pretrial justice system before they’re forced to do so by the courts.”

The ruling includes an injunction that after May 15th bars Harris County from keeping poor, lower risk people accused of misdemeanors in jail before trial, who would otherwise be free but for the price of their money bail.  Judge Rosenthal’s scathing ruling notes, “[i]n Harris County, secured money bail is not just a de facto pretrial detention order; it is literally a pretrial detention order.”

Citing volumes of work, including Pretrial Justice Institute’s 2014 “Colorado” study on money bail, Judge Rosenthal concludes our  “finding is consistent with recent empirical work in other jurisdictions.”  She further states: “Harris County’s policy is to detain indigent misdemeanor defendants before trial, violating equal protection rights against wealth-based discrimination and violating due process protections against pretrial detention without proper procedures or an opportunity to be heard…. According to the most recent and credible evidence, secured financial conditions of pretrial release do not outperform alternative nonfinancial or unsecured conditions of pretrial release in ensuring the appearance of misdemeanor defendants at hearings.”

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The Pretrial Justice Institute (PJI) is a national organization working to advance safe, fair, and effective pretrial justice that honors and protects all people. To learn more about PJI or their 3DaysCount campaign, which aims to support commonsense solutions to longstanding pretrial justice challenges in 20 states, visit

Facts about money bail and pretrial detention in America:

  • Most people in American jailsmore than 6 in 10have not yet been to trial; the vast majority are there because they can’t afford cash bail.
  • More than 80% of criminal defendants qualify for indigent defense based on poverty.
  • Even three days in jail can result in loss of wages, jobs, housing, and family connections, leaving some defendants 40% more likely to commit future crime.
  • Nearly half of high-risk defendants exploit the money bail system and use bail bondsmen to get out.
  • The tools exist to replace the outdated money bail system with a risk-based system that is safe, fair, and effective, and many jurisdictions have demonstrated it is possible.

For Immediate Release: February 23, 2017
Contact: Fiona Druge,, (646) 755-6126; NAPSA, Jim Sawyer, Executive Director, (202) 957-4250

Largest National Association of County Governments (NACo) Unites in Call for Use of Pretrial Risk Assessment & Elimination of Commercial Bail Bonding Industry

Washington DC – At their February 27th annual Legislative Conference, the National Association of Counties (NACo) adopted a policy resolution supporting further improvements to county and state level pretrial justice systems to ensure no one is incarcerated solely because they cannot afford to buy their freedom. Citing the demands of due process and equal protection, NACo called on the U.S. Department of Justice to advise counties and states to make seven concrete improvements, including the adopting pretrial risk assessment and the elimination commercially secured bonds.  (more…)


For Immediate Release: February 23, 2017
Contact: Fiona Druge,, (646) 755-6126; Chris Collibee (Office of Governor Dannel Malloy),, (860) 205-7457

3DaysCount Campaign Offers Path to Fairer Outcomes, Greater Public Safety, and Better Use of Public Resources

Connecticut — Governor Dannel Malloy and Cherise Fanno Burdeen, chief executive officer of the Pretrial Justice Institute (PJI), today announced that Connecticut is joining 3DaysCount, a national campaign led by the Pretrial Justice Institute to make pretrial justice in America safer, fairer, and more effective. Connecticut joins Guam and Illinois as the third jurisdiction to join the 3DaysCount campaign, which is focused on implementing proven, evidence-based improvements in pretrial justice—the portion of the criminal justice system that extends from first contact with law enforcement to resolution of any resulting charges. (more…)


For Immediate Release: February 7, 2017

Contacts: Fiona Druge, | 646.755.6126

Court of Appeals Approves Bail Rule Change

Today, Maryland’s Court of Appeals approved a change to the court rules that govern the state’s money bail system. This reform seeks both to reduce the number of low-risk people who are unfairly and expensively jailed before their trial only because they cannot afford bail and to make it easier for the courts to detain defendants who pose an unmanageable risk to the community. (more…)


For Immediate Release: January 23, 2017

Contacts: Fiona Druge, | 646.755.6126

Two New Reports from the Pretrial Justice Institute Analyze Costs of Unnecessary Pretrial Detention

Washington, DC – Two new publications from the Pretrial Justice Institute shed fresh light on the ineffectiveness, public costs, and collateral impact of using money bail in America’s pretrial justice systems.

Pretrial Justice: How Much Does It Cost? is a comprehensive examination of the most recent research on the financial cost of the money bail system. Most people in U.S.  jails—more than 3 in 5—have not yet been to trial. The vast majority of these legally innocent men and women are locked up solely because they cannot afford money bail, not because evidence suggests they pose a risk to the community while they await their trial. This report summarizes the full range of costs that result from current ineffective pretrial justice policies—from the cost of jailing people before trial to the costs poor people incur from the for-profit bail bond industry and the opportunity costs of not adopting research-backed alternatives to money bail.  Highlights include:  (more…)