Pretrial Justice Institute
200 East Pratt Street, Suite 4100
Baltimore, MD 21202

(667) 281-9141


Could COVID be the “New Normal” for CJ?

Pretrial Justice Institute


At PJI, we spend a lot of time reflecting on safety. It's part of our mission, along with fairness and equity, which we strive for in everything we do. As we all face the challenge of COVID-19, the question of safety, for every person in our communities, has become paramount.

When there are over 630,000 people in U.S. jails—many of whom are accused of a crime but unable to post bond—at risk of exposure in this pandemic, we cannot stand silent.

We must also think of the professionals working in secure facilities who are putting themselves and their families at risk.

Over the past several days, many organizations have made critical policy recommendations to protect the safety of people who are impacted by the legal system as well as communities as a whole. We hope you’ll join us in the University of Pretrial to be part of this ongoing conversation of what we are doing as a field to respond to this threat.

In many communities, for example, police are working to increase the use of citations and summons in lieu of custodial arrest. Supervision agencies are asking how to manage the conditions ordered by the courts, especially if they necessitate in-person interactions, like drug testing. Lawyers are challenging money bonds that result in detention. Activists are encouraging creative, community-based alternatives to jail.

We should gather and talk strategy around these issues, because while this is a time of great crisis, it is also an enormous opportunity to restore the presumption of innocence.

Hopefully, this pandemic will pass but the question of safety will remain. Could these emergency options serve as a "new normal" for pretrial justice? Can we create and maintain practices that are humane, constitutional, and in the best interest of public health?

This can be a turning point—we can change the way we define and create safety for all.

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