Changes to pretrial justice have the most immediate impact in local courts—and every court has a distinct character and way of operating.
Smarter Pretrial is the pathway PJI developed to support local stakeholders—including judges, prosecutors, law enforcement, public defenders, victim and community advocates, and public health officials—to change pretrial operations in counties, cities, towns, and parishes. It creates a learning environment that guides participants through a structured process that identifies areas for improvement, creates a plan of action, and helps jurisdictions to implement the plan, with an emphasis on creating lasting change.
Smarter Pretrial focuses on three overall outcomes that are based on legal obligations and national best practices—what we call “the three Ms”:
- Maximizing liberty
- Maximizing court appearance
- Maximizing public safety
The model can be adapted for targeted efforts, such as reducing racial and ethnic disparities, creating a graduated response for technical violations, or enhancing procedural justice and transparency.
Smarter Pretrial is the next generation of Smart Pretrial, a demonstration initiative funded by the Bureau of Justice Assistance. The original initiative evaluated the impact of moving to a system that relies on risk assessment to inform pretrial release decision-making and demonstrated that risk management strategies can improve pretrial outcomes. In Yakima County, Wash., for example, these strategies yielded a 38% increase in pretrial release with no changes to public safety rates, substantial reductions in racial disparities, and much shorter detention times.
Denver changed the way the city deals with those accused—but not convicted—of a crime.
“Prior to the adoption of our pretrial program, we were releasing about 53% of the accused pretrial. We’re now releasing 73% of those individuals. We found there was no statistically significant difference in public safety rates or in court appearances.”
“When there’s a real commitment from multiple stakeholders, all working together for a common goal...it certainly provides an opportunity for really great things.”
“Smart Pretrial reinforced that criminal justice reform is possible when stakeholders collaborate and align towards a shared vision of system improvement.”