By Cherise Fanno Burdeen
Two weeks ago PJI released The State of Pretrial Justice in America, a nationwide report card measuring each state’s—and America’s—progress toward safe, fair, and effective pretrial justice. Our goal in issuing this report was to stimulate thought and conversation about the need for reform in every state, not just those where action has already begun.
The response has been overwhelming. Nearly 100 reporters, many of whom had never written about this topic before, contacted us, generating coverage from coast to coast and more than 5,600 downloads.
Not surprisingly, many people contacted us to dispute their grades. Sometimes, within the same state, some called for a higher grade while others felt we’d been too generous.
We also heard from people who wanted to know more about the measures we chose—pretrial detention rate, use of pretrial assessment, and elimination of money bail—and why we chose them. The simple answer is twofold: We have always been focused on lowering pretrial detention rates and eliminating the use of money bond, and our longstanding theory of change is that pretrial assessment can move court culture towards those goals.
Two states have provided us with information that eluded us in our research. Have something else to add? We have created a special email address (firstname.lastname@example.org) for sending information or providing feedback.
Someone had to go first, and we’re proud of trying something motivated by setting a standard for accountability that compares states and grades the country as a whole, wanting it to be maximally useful to change leaders on the ground. When hundreds of thousands of people are needlessly detained every day, D is the grade we, as a country, deserve.
What’s next? In early 2018, we begin the process of selecting the next round of measures, data collection, and reporting. As more places implement reform, we may, for example, want to includes measures that ensure courts aren’t simply replacing unnecessary pretrial detention with onerous pretrial supervision, or continuing to disproportionately burden people of color. Next year’s State of Pretrial will incorporate the feedback we have already received, and we are exploring ways to engage and partner with others in the process. So stay in touch, and stay tuned.