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Pretrial News 10 Minute Read

What’s Happening in Pretrial Justice? June 2023

Wendy Shang
Words by
Wendy Shang
Published on
June 01, 2023

We're always keeping up with the current landscape of pretrial justice and include a roundup of important updates in our newsletter each month. See the latest stories below.

Taking mass surveillance to heart. The Fulton County Sheriff’s Office is rolling out a new program using sensors embedded in walls and wristbands to track data such as heart rate and location as a new method of surveillance. In this Wired article, the maker of the technology, Talitrix, claims the system can make understaffed jails more efficient by monitoring heart rates as a way of anticipating health problems or suicide attempts. This technology is part of a trend in more intrusive monitoring technologies in carceral spaces around the world, and raises serious questions about privacy, accuracy and the role of technology superseding human solutions. 

Deeper look at racial disparities in jails. The Pew Charitable Trusts teamed up with the Jail Data Initiative to develop more detailed data on who is in jail, for how long and why. Created by the New York University Public Safety Lab and the Data Collaborative for Justice at John Jay College, the Initiative has up-to-date data from approximately 1,300 of the nation’s 3,000 jails. The study found that, on average, Black people made up 12% of local general populations, but more than double that (26%) in jail populations. The main drivers of disparities were higher admission rates and longer jail stays. On average, Black people were admitted to jail at more than four times the rate of whites, and stayed 12 days longer. 

NYC no longer announcing jail deaths. The New York City Department of Corrections has abruptly decided to stop issuing a press release when someone dies in jail, changing a policy that had been in place for two years. This decision comes shortly after jail officials sought to prevent the release of a federal monitor’s report describing attempts to cover up five serious incidents in May. The NYC Comptroller condemned the action.

Role for prosecutors in supporting behavioral health. Propelling Change: A Prosecutor Call to Action is an initiative of Council of State Governments, the Association of Prosecuting Attorneys, and the National District Attorneys Association to encourage prosecutors to support equitable behavioral health diversion efforts. This is the latest in a growing number of calls to break the cycle of arrest and incarceration of people with behavioral health needs. The project has issued a new guide, Changing the Narrative: The Prosecutor’s Role in Fostering Connections to Community-Based Care, and has a site for joining a call to action.

Guidance on pretrial detention in New Mexico. The New Mexico Supreme Court’s recent decision in New Mexico v. Anderson provides guidance to courts considering detention requests from prosecutors, following the enactment of Rule 5-409 in 2017. In overruling the lower court’s decision to release someone, the Supreme Court noted that Rule 5-409 requires a two-prong analysis—whether the person accused is dangerous, and whether the state has proven no conditions or restrictions that can reasonably protect the public. In examining the second prong, a court must make specific findings as to each of the factors described in the rule, such as the nature and circumstances of the charge and any available pretrial risk assessment score. Both prongs require a standard of clear and convincing evidence.

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