Pretrial Justice Institute
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Baltimore, MD 21202

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Unpacking Willful Flight: Roundtable

On the heels of our most recent report Unpacking Willful Flight, PJI invited community advocates, academics and system stakeholders to imagine a world where willful flight is truly the guiding standard at initial bail hearings.

The law recognizes a difference between nonappearance in court and willful flight (or evading prosecution), yet many jurisdictions treat them both the same, under the umbrella category of failure to appear (FTA). This has significant consequences for pretrial liberty and equity, and conversely, can result in the likelihood of nonappearance being a driver of mass incarceration.

During this 90-minute roundtable, our panelists and guests explored strategies to achieve freedom and safety for more people facing charges, while providing support to help them return to court.

Watch the replay today—and stay tuned for follow-up action steps coming this summer. Subscribe to PJI’s newsletter to be notified on the release date.


Professor Lauryn Gouldin teaches constitutional criminal procedure, criminal law, evidence, constitutional law, and criminal justice reform. Her scholarship focuses on the Fourth Amendment, pretrial detention and bail reform, and judicial decision-making. Her articles have appeared in the University of Chicago Law Review, BYU Law Review, Denver Law Review, Fordham International Law Journal, and the American Criminal Law Review, among others. In 2017, the AALS Criminal Justice Section recognized her article, “Defining Flight Risk,” as the first runner-up in the Section’s Junior Scholars Paper Competition. In 2015, in recognition of her excellence in teaching, Gouldin was selected by the Syracuse University Meredith Professors to receive a Teaching Recognition Award. In 2014 and 2015, the College of Law Student Bar Association honored Gouldin with the Outstanding Faculty Award. At their commencement, the Class of 2018 awarded her the College of Law’s Res Ipsa Loquitur Award for outstanding service, scholarship, and stewardship.

Meghan is driven by a passion for building community wellness and dismantling structures of oppression. Over the past 17 years, she has worked on a broad range of national, state and local training and technical assistance initiatives that critically examine and improve the way public systems function—most recently helping local coalitions and jurisdictions develop antiracist solutions for pretrial policies and practices.

Mike is the Founder and Executive Director of Freedom Community Center. His aim is to build on the radical Black faith tradition of nonviolence and civil rights. Since 2013, Mike has spearheaded grassroots violence interruption efforts, facilitated nonviolence/peacemaking groups, and organized communities to expand Black political power among millennials. Organizing campaigns to elect progressive prosecutors, support mayoral elections, and ballot initiatives. Prior to his work at FCC, Mike has organized against mass and illegal evictions, neighborhood gentrification, and criminal justice efforts to end cash bail.

Cook County Public Defender Sharone R. Mitchell, Jr., is a passionate advocate for the rights of everyone represented by the Public Defender's office and for reform to increase justice in the legal system and to keep communities safe. He was nominated by Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, confirmed by a unanimous vote of the Cook County Board and was sworn into office on April 1, 2021 for a six-year term as Public Defender. Public Defender Mitchell began his legal career in the Law Office of the Cook County Public Defender, first working as a clerk in law school and later as an assistant public defender with assignments in the Civil, First Municipal, and Felony Trial Divisions. The Law Office of the Cook County Public Defender is one of the largest unified public defender offices in the nation with more than 650 employees, a budget of approximately $85 million, and 23 divisions and units. The Office provides legal services for people who cannot afford to hire an attorney to represent them in misdemeanor, felony, traffic, domestic violence, juvenile delinquency, child protection, and similar cases and appeals. In 2016, Mitchell joined the Illinois Justice Project (ILJP), a policy reform organization dedicated to supporting people, programs, and policies that can reduce inappropriate incarceration, improve community safety outcomes, reduce recidivism and increase justice in the legal system.

As the Deputy Director of Policy at The Bail Project, Nicole devises and leads policy and systems change campaign strategies to eliminate cash bail and reduce pretrial incarceration, advance national pretrial reform strategic planning, and execute day-to-day operations of the Policy Department. Before joining The Bail Project, Nicole served as Advocacy and Policy Counsel for the ACLU’s Campaign for Smart Justice.


Unpacking Willful Flight: A Call for Equity Centered Reform

Unpacking Willful Flight delves into the complex issue of distinguishing between failure to appear in court and willful flight.

What If: 10 Questions for Sparking Local Pretrial Change

These ten questions — along with a discussion guide and valuable tools and resources — examine the issue by reframing safety and community wellness.

Updated Position on Pretrial Risk Assessment Tools

Find out why we shifted our position on pretrial risk assessments and what that means for our future work.

Scan of Pretrial Practices

An in-depth snapshot of pretrial practices across the country, and how those real-life behaviors compare with evidence-based practices.