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

(667) 281-9141

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.


In 2020, the Pretrial Justice Institute (PJI) unveils its updated position on pretrial risk assessment tools, marking a significant shift in its approach to achieving equitable pretrial justice practices. Through extensive research and active listening, PJI has recognized that pretrial risk assessment tools perpetuate structural racism and institutional inequities present in court and law enforcement policies. Consequently, PJI now contends that these tools can no longer be part of the solution for building fair pretrial justice processes.

This paper reflects PJI's journey toward this updated framework, highlighting the organization's earlier stance on risk assessments. However, PJI acknowledges its past oversight in not fully considering opposition from civil rights organizations, impacted individuals, and researchers who expressed valid concerns about pretrial risk assessment tools.

PJI now explicitly opposes the use of pretrial risk assessment tools for making detention decisions as well as determining restrictions on pretrial liberty. We also remain against secured financial bonds and supervision fees that create disparities in accessing freedom. Moving forward, PJI's forthcoming framework will emphasize alternative strategies, including expanded citation usage, limited adversarial detention hearings for serious charges, and community-based support to address peoples' needs.

By centering our work on anti-racism, PJI aims to establish safer, fairer, and more equitable pretrial processes. PJI invites systems that currently employ assessment tools, especially those encouraged by the organization, to engage in discussions that promote liberty, equity, and safety through anti-racist practices. Through collaborative efforts, the presumption of innocence can be upheld while investing in safety for all, leading to inclusive and just pretrial practices.