What Success Looks Like

There are many ways to improve pretrial justice; all require vision, commitment, and leadership. The following profiles demonstrate how PJI partners have made their systems fairer and maximized pretrial release while also ensuring people appear in court and preserving public safety.

The State of New Jersey: Reduce arrests & Replace cash bail

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In 2013 the Drug Policy Alliance of New Jersey commissioned a study that found jails across the state were full of people who were charged with low-level offenses but unable to obtain release before trial because of money bail. With coaching, pretrial fundamentals education, and communications support from PJI, DPA applied a broad coalition strategy to help pass comprehensive bail reform and a constitutional amendment needed to enact the reform.

Although the near elimination of money bail is the most discussed piece of New Jersey’s historic legislation, several related reforms made the transformation possible, including a reduction in arrests. At the close of 2017, one year after the reforms went into effect, 69% of people receiving a complaint from police were released on a complaint-summons (given a later date to appear in court), and 81% of people who were taken to jail on a complaint-warrant were eventually released pretrial. Just two years after the legislation passed in 2015, New Jersey’s jail population had decreased by 35% with no changes to its public safety rate.

PJI offers flexible frameworks for change that reflect the multi-level structure of the U.S. criminal justice system. Smart Pretrial describes our local, county-level approach; 3DaysCount refers to our state-level reform process. Although the names and scale of impact vary, both use the same strategies.