Presumed Guilty: The Immorality of Our Current Pretrial Justice System

Pretrial Justice -

By Doug Walker, Director for Criminal Justice Reform of the United Methodist General Board of Church & Society

Does our current pretrial system reflect the ethics and values upon which our legal system of justice is supposedly based? For people of faith and goodwill, the answer is no. For me, personally, the story of my brother’s arrest provided a clear example of how current pretrial practices fail to support our legal and spiritual values.

Three months. That is how long it took for my brother to get out of jail. It was the summer of 2012 when my baby brother was arrested and charged with theft of a company vehicle. From the very beginning, he insisted on his innocence and looked forward to the opportunity to present his case at trial before a jury of his peers. Instead, as is the pattern in far too many cases involving poor people of color, he was incarcerated and began serving time in jail without ever having his day in court.

So what was the cause of his three month incarceration? In a word: money, of which he had none. For thousands of families across the country the cost of posting bail means losing one’s home or job because rent money or childcare expenditures that month went to getting a loved one out of jail. Eventually, my family scraped together the money to pay the bail bondsman. However, my brother’s fortunate outcome is not the case for many who find themselves behind bars like he did.

I wish that I could say that my brother’s situation was a fluke, or some rare mishap in an otherwise healthy system of criminal justice but, unfortunately, that is not the case. Sadly, what happened to my mother’s baby boy is exactly what happens in jurisdictions throughout America every single day. Every year across the United States, tens of thousands of U.S. citizens are detained in jails for weeks, months and in some cases, even years without ever having a trial, due to the simple fact that they do not have the money to post bond. These are mothers, fathers, sons, and daughters. They are also employees and caregivers, people who others rely on for emotional, financial, and other support. For the children of incarcerated individuals, emotional scarring can occur as their sense of love and security is challenged or destroyed by a parent’s absence.

Racial profiling, the threat of lengthy sentences, and the decisions of pretrial judges overwhelmingly disadvantage poor people of color. When the accused cannot post bond, they often accept “plea deals” that allow them to get out of jail in the short term, while it saddles them with a criminal record that stays with them for a lifetime. The “easy out” of a plea deal effects everything from their job prospects to their right to vote. In the face of this reality I again ask: “Does our current pretrial system reflect the ethics and values upon which our legal system of justice is supposedly based?”

And again, for people of faith and goodwill, the answer is no. Those who present no threat to public safety, and have been convicted of no crime, should be given an opportunity to stay in their communities and with their families after arrest. The idea that our brothers and sisters have to spend days, weeks, and months in jail without a trial, simply because they are poor is a shock to those who believe justice and fairness are basic guiding principles of humanity.

At the United Methodist Church, General Board of Church and Society we believe in restorative justice principles that seek to correct harm by healing those impacted by crime, including victims, communities, families and the person accused of a crime. Incarceration doesn’t have to be part of the equation. We put our beliefs into practice through the Healing Communities framework which is helping churches learn to be in relationship and ministry with those who are directly impacted by mass incarceration, including the pretrial justice system. Part of this work can include walking with those in our families, churches, and communities who are experiencing the challenge of the money bail system. While this can mean addressing the immediate need to raise bail money, it also leads to advocacy to eliminate money bail entirely in accordance with the Social Principles of the United Methodist Church

As believers in justice and equality we are eager to partner with those who share our values.


Doug Walker coordinates the Board of Church and Society’s work to end Mass Incarceration. You can follow him on twitter @DTech415, and @TransformTampa. You can also read his blog “Make A Difference . . . For Life”.

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2014 Pretrial Justice Working Group Strategic Summit: Meeting Summary

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The 2014 Pretrial Justice Working Group (PJWG) strategic summit was held in the Office of Justice Programs ballroom on December 5th. With over 70 attendees representing national professional organizations, government agencies and policy advocacy groups, the summit provided informative presentations and engaging dialogue. Moreover, the gathering was an example of the kind of collaboration and camaraderie that the PJWG has cultivated since its creation over three years ago.

The summit focused on upcoming and ongoing front-end site-based pretrial initiatives and how PJWG member organizations can help support that work. It ended with a lively period of brainstorming a collective vision for pretrial justice beyond 2015 and how each group might contribute to that ideal.

Following is a brief recap of the day’s events:

  • The event was opened by Denise O’Donnell, Director of the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA), who lauded the accomplishments of the PJWG over the last three years and reaffirmed the Department of Justice’s commitment to evidence-based pretrial reform, particularly through the newly launched Smart Pretrial Demonstration Initiative. Cherise Fanno Burdeen, Executive Director of the Pretrial Justice Institute (PJI), together with Kim Ball, Senior Policy Advisor with BJA, presented Director O’Donnell with an award to thank her for her leadership and commitment to pretrial justice reform.
  • Cherise Fanno Burdeen then facilitated a session where attendees talked about the activities they were the most proud of having contributed towards accomplishing the 2014 objectives set for the PJWG at last year’s summit. That discussion will help to inform the 2014 Annual Report of the PJWG, to be published in early 2015.
  • Laurie Garduque, Director of Justice Programs at the MacArthur Foundation, gave an overview of the Foundation’s upcoming front-end justice reform work and Request for Proposals which will be released in February of 2015. The audience responded with questions and comments and Ms. Garduque said she hoped that attendees would use their connections to educate their constituencies to help increase the number of applicants.
  • Lori Eville from the National Institute of Corrections (NIC) presented on NIC’s pretrial and justice systems strategy and areas of investment in education and assistance. Of interest to the group were a series of maps showing the wide coverage of NIC’s Pretrial Executive Network, Orientation for New Pretrial Executives and Pretrial and Justice System Technical Assistance. Ms. Eville also covered the basic framework of NIC’s Evidence-Based Decision-Making (EBDM) initiative as well as some positive changes in recidivism and harm reduction in participating EBDM sites.
  • The PJWG was updated on plans for BJA’s Smart Pretrial Demonstration Initiative by Kim Ball and Carmen Facciolo (BJA) and Mike Jones from PJI. They introduced the sites—City and County of Denver; State of Delaware and Yakima County, Washington—including each site’s current pretrial system status and goals. The speakers took the opportunity to reach out to the audience for support and advice from any groups that may be doing work in the sites.
  • The Arnold Foundation was represented at the summit by Dr. Marie Van Nostrand from Luminosity, Inc. to discuss developments in the Foundation’s work on the PSA-Court pretrial risk assessment tool and the robust research being done in Louisville, Kentucky. Dr. Van Nostrand fielded numerous questions on the Louisville work, its implications for the field and ways in which partners can use the research to inform their work.
  • Christine Cole, Executive Director of the Crime & Justice Institute, took the podium next to update the group on her organization’s jurisdictional and state-level work in California. CJI’s work includes tool development, cost-benefit modeling, training, public polling and site-based technical assistance.
  • The Council of State Governments’ Director of National Initiatives Division, David D’Amora, gave an in-depth look at strategies for identifying and addressing mental health issues in the context of the pretrial justice system. Mr. D’Amora highlighted the many barriers to addressing the issue within current systems of data collection and justice processes.
  • The last session focused on defining what it would mean to “achieve pretrial justice” by 2025. Led by Jane Wiseman, Executive Director of the Institute for Excellence in Government, the session was meant to define our goals ahead of a new 10-year campaign PJI will launch in 2015. Attendees were engaged in exercises that asked them to express their vision for an ideal system of pretrial justice and to suggest ways their organizations might contribute to moving forward. We look forward to sharing this collective vision with you in the new year.

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A Balancing Act: Thanksgiving, Families, and Pretrial Justice

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Holidays are a balancing act for most families: juggling life’s normal responsibilities with the extra work of planning get-togethers and travelling. It all adds up to a lot of time, energy, and resources, but we do it because it is worth the effort. We do it because we want to be with the people who raised us, the people we were raised with—our children, parents, grandparents, siblings, spouses, partners, and friends—the people we love.

The balancing act becomes more delicate for families with loved ones who have been arrested and are detained in jail prior to trial. For these families, someone is missing from the table. Arrested individuals who could be safely released pending trial often remain in jail simply because they are unable to pay a bond. On the other side, there are families who will spend this holiday season worried about their safety because someone managed to post bond, despite the danger they pose. 

The Pretrial Justice Institute (PJI) and our many partners are working towards pragmatic solutions that can make our system fairer, safer, and more effective. Together, we are working to ensure that our systems are able to more quickly and accurately identify those who can be released pending trial without sacrificing public safety or impacting court appearance rates. Many people will not need more than a simple court reminder; some will need a bit of supervision; but both groups can be out meeting family, work, and other responsibilities. Only a small number of the highest risk, most dangerous people should be held in jail before their trial in order to protect the community.

The pragmatic solutions include the use of evidence-based risk assessment tools and expanding community-based diversion and treatment options so judges are able to place individuals according to their needs. This all has the potential to improve public safety, better protect victims, preserve defendants’ rights, reduce costs, and strengthen communities and families. And, it will test our collective will to create a better pretrial justice system for everyone.

As you enjoy the company of your loved ones during this holiday season, please resolve to support the changes in pretrial justice that bring balance to the system and help all families. Be thankful for what you have, pay no mind to what you don’t, and be careful on the roads.


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PJI: Part of the Plan

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By Bruce Beaudin, PJI Board Member

When I was a young Georgetown University law student in the early 60’s, I had no idea that pretrial justice would define so much of my professional life and create so many friendships and relationships with people who shared my passion for more just and effective pretrial practices. While still in law school, I was fortunate to be hired as the first pretrial defendant interviewer for the pilot DC Bail Project. And that pilot project in one jurisdiction launched a personal history that turned into a legal and moral mandate, in my mind, to look at what we were doing and why we were doing it.

Although the U.S. Supreme Court had succinctly laid out how we should treat bail in the 1951 case of Stack v. Boyle, it was clear to me when I first started working in this field that we were ignoring what the Court had said.  As a result, dangerous defendants were being allowed to buy their way out of jail, while lower risk defendants who could not pay the bondsman sat it jail.

My experience as the Director of the DC Pretrial Services Agency from 1968-1984 convinced me of the need to support and professionalize the field of pretrial services through a membership organization, the National Association of Pretrial Service Agencies (NAPSA), which I helped to found in 1972. And while serving as NAPSA’s president, it became evident to me and many others that our community needed another organization that could provide technical assistance and expertise to pretrial services agencies. That organization, which was created in 1977, became the “Pretrial Services Resource Center,” now known as the Pretrial Justice Institute (PJI). I tried to remain as active as I could with both PJI and NAPSA after my appointment to the bench by President Reagan in 1984, and I am honored to have served for many years on PJI’s board, including several terms as its chair.

So I have known PJI quite well for a very long time, and I’ve watched it change and grow, diversify and get better and better at identifying – and doing — what needs to be done to improve pretrial justice across the country.  It is no longer a technical assistance provider although it has a very impressive record of fostering new and evolving pretrial agencies in thousands of jurisdictions. It is now a leader of a national movement that encompasses all of the primary stakeholders of the pretrial justice system — including law enforcement, defense, prosecution, and the judiciary, victims and defendants – and it keeps the movement collaborative and reflective of the broad support that the issue of pretrial justice currently enjoys with the public.

As I step down from PJI’s Board of Directors, I want to remind you again of that young man from Georgetown University who simply wanted to see pretrial decisions being made honestly, openly, and according to the law.  And I want to remind you of another young man, a Vietnam veteran named Tim Murray, recently the Executive Director of PJI, who I had the pleasure of hiring many years ago for his first job in pretrial services. I want you also to think about all of the men and women, including the current PJI staff and Board team, who are putting so much of their energy into advancing pretrial justice.

I don’t know how many of us ever saw this as part of our “plan” (or knew how long it would take to change the laws and the rules) when we started. But with PJI and its many partners moving forward with so many exciting initiatives, I encourage you to spread the word and help us find even more passionate champions for pretrial justice!

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Two New NIC Publications on Bail

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The National Institute of Corrections has released two new papers related to pretrial justice, both authored by Tim Schnacke, the Executive Director of the Center for Legal and Evidence-Based Practices. Schnacke, a leading thinker and writer on pretrial justice addresses two important issues with the new works.

The first, Fundamentals of Bail: A Resource Guide for Pretrial Practitioners and a Framework for American Pretrial Reform, was born out of the recognition that the pretrial justice field lacks a common language and a common understanding of key concepts and practices. By synthesizing the most up-to-date policies, practices, research and terms into this paper, Schnacke has laid out a contemporary lexicon for pretrial justice.

The second, Money as a Criminal Justice Stakeholder: The Judge’s Decision to Release or Detain a Defendant Pretrial, discusses a powerful but oft-neglected player in pretrial decision-making: money. Schnacke discusses the detrimental impact that introducing money into the pretrial process has on the system, practitioners and defendants. The paper offers a framework, based on legal and evidence-based practices, that constitutes a way out of the money-based system.

Both these papers are must-reads for anyone involved in pretrial justice practice or reform.

Fundamentals of Bail: A Resource Guide for Pretrial Practitioners and a Framework for American Pretrial Reform - NIC 2014
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“Wholehearted Involvement”

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The American Bar Association’s Pretrial Justice Committee

By Tim Schnacke

In a 1964 speech to the American Bar Association’s Criminal Law Section, Attorney General Robert Kennedy spoke passionately of the need for bail reform, stating that solutions to unjust and ineffective bail systems “require the wholehearted involvement of the legal profession. Starting with law students and reaching to the topmost ranks of our largest law firms.”

The same is true today, and this year we hope the ABA’s Pretrial Justice Committee will spark a fire that reaches everyone – lawyer and non-lawyer alike – who cares enough about justice to guarantee that it will no longer be rationed to only those who can pay for it.

I’m honored to co-chair this new committee with PJI’s Cherise Fanno Burdeen. Our work will be solely dedicated to illuminating and solving pretrial issues and we intend to build upon the momentum begun by prior ABA Committees to help achieve pretrial justice through the vast resources and reputation of the ABA.

If you’re a lawyer, then you probably learned early on about the prominent role that the ABA plays in the legal profession. When searching for a law school, you likely looked for one that had the “ABA-approved” designation. During school, you studied the ABA’s Model Rules of Professional Conduct so that you could pass the bar and practice; indeed, these Rules have been adopted in some form in virtually every state. You probably joined the Law Student Division and you probably got the magazine. When I was in law school, the ABA was everywhere.

But even if you aren’t a lawyer, you’d be right in thinking that the ABA is somehow different from most associations, and this is especially true in the field of criminal justice. First, it’s big. With over 400,000 members, the ABA is one of the world’s largest voluntary professional associations, and its Criminal Justice Section is home to over 20,000 criminal justice professionals. Second, it’s active. The ABA, through the Criminal Justice Section, plays a leading role in bringing timely and helpful policy recommendations to courts, Congress, and other state and federal legislative and executive bodies. Third, it’s authoritative. Since 1968, the ABA’s Criminal Justice Standards have been used as sources of authority for countless court opinions, statutes, and court rules. There aren’t many associations that can boast having their policy recommendations quoted or cited by the United States Supreme Court. The ABA has had its Criminal Justice Standards quoted or cited by the Supreme Court over 120 times.

The ABA’s Standards on Pretrial Release already provide recommendations reflecting criminal justice stakeholder consensus based on legal and research-based practices. But with the new Pretrial Justice Committee in place, we intend to further what ABA President, William C. Hubbard has called the “fundamental mission” that both fully describes the crucial role of lawyers in our democracy and rightfully guides all ABA initiatives to “establish justice.”

During the Committee’s first meeting last week, we agreed to seek ABA approval to embark on several new projects involving those in the legal profession (and others interested in the profession) – from shaping statutes, court opinions, and rules; to communicating with students and lawyers; and addressing misunderstandings of the ABA’s clear policies on pretrial release and detention.

If you have any questions about this Committee, its membership requirements, or its projects, please contact Tim Schnacke through the Center for Legal and Evidence-Based Practices, at

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Happy Third Birthday, PJWG!

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For those of you with small children in your lives, sometimes getting past the “terrible twos” can be a feat. With temper tantrums and saying “no” to everything, some two-year olds can make an otherwise sane adult feel a little nuts. But, around the age of three, that same child begins to develop a vivid imagination and starts to ask a lot of questions. Well, your Pretrial Justice Working Group—otherwise known as the PJWG—started its life in October 2011 as a direct product of the National Symposium on Pretrial Justice, which was convened by Attorney General Eric Holder earlier that year. In fact, the PJWG is the fulfillment of one of the core recommendations identified at the Symposium: to “establish a multidisciplinary Pretrial Justice Working Group.” And after careful nurturing by so many pretrial partners — and without taking us through the “terrible two” stage” – the PJWG is now turning three!

As the host of PJWG events and facilitator of its activities, PJI is happy to celebrate and reflect on its impressive accomplishments and to thank the Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance for sponsoring this important vehicle for change. On a personal level—as someone who helped my predecessor Tim Murray and our colleague at BJA Kim Ball give life to the PJWG—I am very proud of its work. And, given that it’s turning three, our collective imaginations are starting to run wild, and we have some big questions to ask.

In the past three years, the PJWG has welcomed many organizations as members, representing a diverse cross-section of pretrial justice stakeholders, including police, sheriffs, judges, prosecutors, public defenders, as well as leaders from faith, social justice, victims’ rights, funders, government agencies, and advocacy groups. Our member organizations, which now number over 90, have forged many successful partnerships and implemented projects to meet our mutual goal of advancing safe, fair, and effective pretrial justice. Representatives from these organizations have participated in regularly scheduled Working Group subcommittee meetings and have met in Washington, DC for the annual convening of the PJWG Strategic Summit. At these meetings, members share resources, best practices, and updates on pretrial justice progress. They also continually map out the work that lies ahead.

One of the projects we share every year is the compilation of pretrial reform activities into comprehensive progress reports. Last year’s 2013 Progress Report included more than 110 updates encompassing the work of more than 100 organizations, while the 2011-2012 Progress Report gathered partner updates from the first 18 months after the National Symposium. Every year the news gets more encouraging; relationships grow; new pretrial champions emerge; and we get closer to making lasting and widespread improvements to the pretrial system. We look forward to creating and sharing the 2014 Progress Report early next year.

But it’s time to feed our imaginations and get some answers to those big questions. In November, we will be bringing together all of the PJWG subcommittees for a short virtual meeting to get caught up with each other about pretrial activities from this fall, and to prepare a little for our big summit in December. At this year’s annual summit (by-invitation), being held at the Office of Justice Programs, we’ll be introducing the three new Smart Pretrial sites, focusing on major work that will be undertaken by other funders in 2015, and collaborating on answers to some big questions that will contribute to a PJI White Paper — A Vision for Pretrial Justice by 2025.

Happy Birthday, PJWG—and THANK YOU to all of our members!

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It’s About Results, Not Money

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This article originally appeared on the Pretrial Services Agency for the District of Columbia website.

By Clifford T. Keenan, Director, Pretrial Services Agency for the District of Columbia

Washington, DC, is considered a model for its overall administration of pretrial justice, not just because of its statutory framework, but also due to the agency that supports the courts in this process – the Pretrial Services Agency for the District of Columbia (PSA). PSA has received national recognition for the quality and breadth of its programs and services, and receives a steady stream of visitors from around the globe to learn about what PSA does and how we do it. Yet along with this interest, when hearing about all that PSA offers, many may think, “Sure – you’re DC. You’re Federal, you’re so big, you have so many resources, you have so many staff. We can’t do that.”  If you want to establish, improve or expand your pretrial services program to more effectively administer pretrial justice, my message is this: Don’t be discouraged. If you look at how PSA’s budget compares to those of other pretrial agencies, you would see that much of what we do to administer true pretrial justice is possible for smaller agencies, and it is not about the money.

PSA’s outcomes speak volumes about what is possible under a high functioning and well-funded pretrial system. Over the last five years, an average 88% of DC’s pretrial defendants were released pending trial—of those, 89% remained arrest-free (and of those re-arrested, less than 1% were charged with a violent crime) and 88% made all scheduled court appearances. PSA supervised just over 70% of those who were released and, annually, 78% under pretrial supervision completed all supervision requirements. Partly because of these successes, the city’s jail operates at below 60% of its rated capacity with only about 12% of its population being pretrial detainees.

PSA is fortunate to have the resources to deliver the additional programs and services that exemplify best practices in pretrial justice. However, your jurisdiction does not have to do it all – a lot that can be accomplished by delivering just the core essential services the courts need to appropriately release more people, and this can be done at relatively low cost.

It is useful to understand what comprises PSA’s funding. As an independent Federal agency, our budget includes administrative support functions that would not be needed for pretrial programs housed within another agency (e.g., probation department). These functions include human capital services, finance and administration, IT and strategic development. PSA’s budget also includes a robust drug specimen collection program and drug testing laboratory, also not a part of a typical pretrial services agency’s budget. If your costs are derived primarily from delivery of core services, you can do a lot, even with a smaller budget.

Here are some details to get a better picture. If you exclude our administrative support and drug specimen collection and testing functions, PSA’s FY 2014 budget contains $29.4 million for its core pretrial operations, which includes risk assessment, supervision and integration of treatment into supervision. Of this amount, roughly 80% is allocated to salary costs. While this percentage might be similar in other jurisdictions, their cost likely is less than that for Federal employees working in the District of Columbia. All of this goes to help manage the nearly 21,000 cases a year processed in the District’s Superior Court and the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. In FY 2013, PSA prepared bail reports on 99% of cases heard at Superior Court and District Court initial appearance (bail setting) hearings and supervised throughout the year just over 14,000 defendants in 18,000 cases. On any given day, PSA supervises over 4,500 defendants with conditions ranging from address verification to electronically-monitored curfews and stay-away orders.

In breaking this down further, PSA’s core pretrial functions costs about $81,000 per day over the course of a year (365×81,000=29,565,000). The supervision cost for each defendant is about $18 per day (81,000/4500=18). How much does it cost to keep a person in jail for a day in your jurisdiction?
To offer an additional comparison for non-Federal agencies, we can look at PSA’s funding levels before we became a Federal agency (which occurred in 2000). In FY 1996 – a typical funding year for PSA as a locally-funded agency, our budget was $7 million to support 118 staff, mostly in our core operational functions. Our FY 1999 budget of $21.1 million was a mix of local and Federal funding for 279 staff and enhanced supporting functions. Of that amount, only $11.1 million were local funds. Our budget has grown since becoming Federal in order to provide the enhanced programs and services that have become our hallmark.

Perhaps the best reason that any jurisdiction should provide the necessary funding for an effective pretrial services function is that anything less actually costs more. The developing body of research on pretrial risk assessment shows that most defendants present a low to moderate risk of pretrial failure; and that it is only the moderate- to high-risk defendants who need supervision that would be resource intensive.

Certainly, there are defendants that need close supervision, but most do not require resource intensive conditions, such as substance use disorder treatment, mental health services, and electronic surveillance to control risk of pretrial failure.  An average 25% of defendants in Washington, DC, are released on personal recognizance with no additional court-ordered conditions.  Only 10% of defendants on pretrial supervision are on higher-level supervision (which includes electronic surveillance and home confinement), while 25% receive substance use disorder treatment and/or mental health services. Almost two-thirds of supervised defendants are ordered to comply with conditions—such as drug testing, weekly telephone or in-person reporting, and stay-away orders—that require more moderate resources to manage. Following the evidence-based principle of matching supervision and services to individual risk levels makes sense not only in ensuring fairness and defendant accountability, but also in controlling and managing costs.

The topic of budget was raised at a recent site visit from justice executives from Cook County, Illinois. In response to the suggestion that what happens in DC is possible primarily because of the size of PSA’s budget, D.C. Superior Court Senior Associate Judge Truman Morrison said, “You don’t need a huge budget to run a fair, efficient, safe pretrial system. What we do here is possible where you work.” I suggest the same can be said for many other jurisdictions as well.

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21st Century Prosecution and Pretrial Justice

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By Steven Jansen, Vice-President, Association of Prosecuting Attorneys

The Association of Prosecuting Attorneys (APA) was an early supporter of the new wave of activity to promote best practices in pretrial justice across the country. We participated in the 2011 National Symposium on Pretrial Justice, which was convened by Attorney General Eric Holder to initiate a new movement for change. We have taken very seriously the mandate to identify ways that prosecutors – as primary and proactive stakeholders in the justice system – can make sure that those charged with a crime are treated in the most effective way (i.e., release, supervision, diversion, or detention) prior to trial, while protecting public safety and promoting adherence to court process. In fact, one of the core recommendations from the Symposium places prosecution front and center, calling for the “screening of criminal cases by an experienced prosecutor before the initial court appearance to make sure that the charge(s) that go before the court at that hearing are the charge(s) on which the prosecutor is moving forward.”

APA knows one of our most important roles is to keep our membership informed and engaged in creating solutions to the crime and criminal justice problems which are vexing our system. We were one of the first criminal justice professional associations to pass a Policy Statement in support of pretrial services and best practices, and we have also been an active member of the Pretrial Justice Working Group (PJWG) which was formed at the 2011 National Symposium.

I’d like to take some time now to tell you about a few of our recent pretrial justice activities that promote research and evidence-based decision making, which are at the heart of pretrial best practices. For example, in 2013, we began collaborating with the National Institute of Justice to study prosecution and pretrial diversion. We travelled around the country, partnering with 10 District Attorneys’ Offices to determine the kinds of cases that they have been diverting. We have now chosen two sites as the subjects of a more in-depth, yearlong study to reveal outcomes and best practices.

Also, at last week’s APA National Prosecution Summit in Dallas, we featured a panel moderated by the Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Assistance’s Senior Policy Advisor, Kim Ball, on smart pretrial strategies, with special attention to universal risk assessment tools. Matt Alsdorf, Director of Criminal Justice at the Laura and John Arnold Foundation; District Attorney John Chisolm of Milwaukee County, WI; and District Attorney Rod Underhill of Multnomah County, OR explored how local jurisdictions can effectively implement risk assessment and appropriate supervision. Ultimately, these strategies can assist in “smart” decision making and the reduction of unnecessary pretrial incarceration without sacrificing the public safety which is so key to prosecutors’ service to our communities.

As the partnership to improve pretrial justice expands and diversifies in the next few years, we promise to continue to add the unique voice, expertise, and experience of prosecutors to the dialogue!

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Department of Justice Announces Recipients of New “Smart” Grant to Reform Pretrial Justice Practices

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The Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance and the Pretrial Justice Institute head program focused on working with local justice stakeholders and communities to reduce inequities in the front-end of the justice system


Washington, D.C., September 29, 2014 Pretrial Justice Institute (PJI) praised the Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Assistance’s (BJA) announcement today naming the City and County of Denver, Colorado; Yakima County, Washington; and the State of Delaware as the recipients of the Justice Department’s first Smart Pretrial Demonstration Initiative grants aimed at creating more fair and effective local pretrial justice practices. Denver, Yakima and Delaware are inaugural sites to receive funding for this innovative grant program designed to accomplish pretrial bail reform, a goal originally articulated by Robert F. Kennedy when he was the United States Attorney General 50 years ago.

The Smart Pretrial Demonstration Initiative continues the Department of Justice’s commitment to pretrial reform, expressed by Attorney General Eric Holder at the 2011 National Symposium on Pretrial Justice where he noted that the existing pretrial detention system costs American taxpayers more than $9 billion per year. He also stated that, “by competently assessing risk of release, weighing community safety alongside relevant court considerations, and engaging with pretrial service providers – in private agencies, as well as in courts, probation departments, and sheriff’s offices – we can design reforms to make the current system more equitable, while balancing the concerns of judges, prosecutors, defendants, and advocacy organizations.”

The competitive Smart Pretrial grants from the Justice Department’s BJA offer data and tools to the selected jurisdictions to identify the inefficiencies present in their current pretrial systems and explore opportunities to replace them with policies that prioritize pretrial risk assessments and risk-based supervision for pretrial release. The grants are an initial award of up to $100,000 per year for two years and a potential third year based on successful performance.

“Today’s announcement is not only a great opportunity for Denver, Yakima, and Delaware but also an important advance in making pretrial policies more equitable across the U.S,” said Cherise Fanno Burdeen, PJI’s Executive Director. “We owe it to everyone to make sure that the best information and tools are used to determine who should be held in jail and who should be released before trial.”

The program will test the cost savings and public safety enhancements that can be achieved by improving pretrial policies and practices. Specifically, the program will evaluate the impact of moving to a pretrial justice system that relies on risk assessment to inform pretrial release decision-making and demonstrate how risk management strategies can improve pretrial outcomes. These improvements are expected to increase the efficiency of the justice system, while being more fair and just to defendants.

“The three awardees are taking an important step in moving from a solely offense-based pretrial system to one that is risk-based and that, in the process, makes the community safer,” said Kim Ball, Senior Policy Advisor at the Bureau of Justice Assistance. “This approach to pretrial decision-making will also be more cost-effective for the taxpayers of Denver, Yakima and Delaware. We are excited to work with these sites to improve pretrial justice.”

The Justice Department’s announcement of the Smart Pretrial Demonstration Initiative comes 50 years after Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy spoke of “new techniques for releasing accused persons prior to trial, without hampering law enforcement, without increasing crime, and without prompting defendants to flee,” when addressing the first National Conference on Bail and Criminal Justice.

Meanwhile, in the past several years, a new wave of pretrial justice stakeholders, including law enforcement, State Supreme Court Justices and numerous state legislatures, have advocated for the implementation of risk-based pretrial justice systems to ensure that criminals who pose the most serious dangers to communities are properly identified and supervised if released.

The Smart Pretrial Demonstration Initiative will further assist local jurisdictions in reforming their pretrial practices.


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Smarter Justice – Smart Pretrial, Pt. 1

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By Kim Ball, Senior Policy Advisor, Bureau of Justice Assistance, Department of Justice

When Cherise Burdeen from PJI asked me to be on the closing plenary session at this year’s National Association of Pretrial Service Agencies (NAPSA) Conference on September 10th, I was excited to participate. She asked me to talk about the Bureau of Justice Assistance’s (BJA) new Smart Pretrial Demonstration Initiative, a project near and dear to my heart. For more than four years, Cherise, Tim Murray, Seema Gajwani and I have been talking about launching a demonstration initiative to identify and foster best practices in pretrial justice. I am proud that this year BJA will fund this initiative, which will be the first pretrial demonstration project supported by the Department of Justice (DOJ) in 30 years. And I was eager to talk to the NAPSA members about how we expect Smart Pretrial to have a profound impact on the work they do.

My career in criminal justice started in my home state of Arkansas, where I served as a prosecutor for several years. Even with my experience as a prosecutor, when I first came to BJA, I didn’t understand how significant it would be to invest in the front-end of the system. Tim, Cherise and other pretrial leaders introduced me to the “risk principle” in pretrial decision making, and soon thereafter, BJA started looking for new ways to support pretrial reform. Consequently, in 2011, DOJ convened the National Symposium on Pretrial Justice, and since then, we have supported the Pretrial Justice Working Group, which was one of the key products of that symposium.

The more I communicate and collaborate with pretrial practitioners and stakeholders, the clearer it becomes that this is an extremely pivotal moment for pretrial justice. There is a stronger will to make change and more awareness of the challenges and flaws within the current system. That’s why the timing of BJA’s Smart Pretrial demonstration project is perfect. BJA, partnering with PJI and our team of training and technical assistance providers, fully expects that the evidence that comes from Smart Pretrial will help us all create safer, fairer and more effective pretrial justice systems over the course of the next few decades.

As I told the frontline practitioners at the NAPSA conference, we know that many pretrial programs have been engaged in promoting smart pretrial practices for years. However, as I travel around the country, I can’t help but notice that in many jurisdictions, risk isn’t used to inform the pretrial decision-making process. Smart Pretrial is unique and “smart” because it requires the three demonstration sites to use action research, data collection/analysis and evidence-based practice from the very start. The sites must incorporate empirical risk assessment, supervision and mitigation strategies. And throughout the three phases of the project – Planning, Implementation and Sustainability – we will document their progress, findings and challenges in order to help educate and inspire other jurisdictions as they also move forward.

Stay tuned for part 2 of this blog when BJA announces the three Smart Pretrial sites later this month! You’re going to be hearing about Smart Pretrial for a very long time, and we’re committed to making sure that this is an initiative worth talking about.


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IACP Talks Partnership with Pretrial Services

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This blog post originally appeared on the International Association of Chiefs of Police Blog on September 16, 2014.

At the 2014 National Association of Pretrial Services Agencies (NAPSA) Annual Conference held September 7-10 in Denver, CO, the IACP partnered with the National Association of Counties on the opening plenary panel discussion, “Partners in Pretrial Reform: How to Effectively Engage Law Enforcement and Local Elected Officials.”

Chief Frank Straub, Spokane, WA, represented IACP’s perspective as member of IACP’s Pretrial Justice Champions Group. The panel addressed the value of pretrial risk assessment and risk-based release to both public safety and to responsible fiscal management.

Chief Straub commented to the more than 650 pretrial service providers in attendance, “We were just arresting everyone and taking them to jail and finally, common sense set in. We asked ourselves, ‘Who do we send to jail? Why? Does it make sense? Can we afford it?’ We know that we need strong reentry resources, but really, we need to make sure we have appropriate entry procedures. Pretrial detention or release decisions should be risk-based so that we detain the right people for the right reasons.”
NAPSA Conference attendees were encouraged to be risk takers and collaboration builders and reach out to law enforcement leaders and local elected officials to engage them in supporting pretrial services, including the use of a validated risk assessment tool to inform detain/release decisions.

At the 2013 NAPSA Conference, IACP was presented with the Partners Award for the proactive work of the Pretrial Justice Reform Initiative, which is supported by the Public Welfare Foundation. To learn more about how IACP is encouraging law enforcement to be proactive partners with pretrial services providers, visit or contact Program Manager Dianne Beer-Maxwell at

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September in Denver

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By Cherise Fanno Burdeen, Executive Director of the Pretrial Justice Institute

As I write this, the entire PJI staff is getting ready to attend the 42nd Annual Conference of the National Association of Pretrial Services Agencies (NAPSA) in Denver from Sunday, September 7th to Wednesday, September 10th. The conference is one of the best ways for PJI staff to stay connected and informed about the on-the-ground activities and insights of pretrial practitioners from federal, state and local pretrial justice systems. And, in 42 years, we have not missed a single conference.

Some people are not aware of our pretrial family history. In 1977, five years after the founding of NAPSA, its board submitted a proposal to the U.S. Department of Justice to start PJI – in its earlier incarnation as the “Pretrial Services Resource Center.” The NAPSA board realized at the time that members needed technical assistance for their pretrial services agencies. And so, side-by-side for nearly 38 years, our two organizations continue to work together and share resources, best practices and ideas to improve pretrial justice throughout the U.S. In 2012, I was elected President of NAPSA, a role I was honored to serve until May of this year. I am incredibly proud of all of the NAPSA Board’s recent achievements.

This year, we congratulate NAPSA for a first-time happening: the conference sold out weeks ago! This is a first in 42 years! Over 650 people (250 more than anticipated) will be treated to a curriculum that has been carefully crafted to ensure they leave Denver inspired to continue to work for safe, fair and effective pretrial justice practices and policies.

We’re looking forward to the variety of workshops, including a few that PJI is contributing on risk assessments, how to effectively communicate about pretrial, and the importance of a high-functioning local criminal justice coordinating committee. Two of our terrific partner organizations – the International Association of Chiefs of Police and the National Association of Counties – will host a plenary on working on pretrial with law enforcement and county elected officials. I will also be partnering with Kim Ball of the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) for the final day’s plenary session – “Smarter Justice: The Smart Pretrial Demonstration Initiative” – where we will unveil some of the plans and objectives for this new addition to BJA’s “Smart Suite” of criminal justice projects. There may be a surprise announcement during this last plenary – so if you’re at the conference, you don’t want to miss it!

Finally, the conference’s opening night, which will feature a keynote address on Colorado’s impressive pretrial accomplishments, is sure to be talked about for years to come. As part of this celebration, PJI has produced its first-ever mini-documentary called, “Pretrial Justice: The Colorado Story.” I have often said that the Colorado champions on pretrial are far too modest about all they have done on behalf of criminal justice stakeholders, victims, officer safety and in the name of fairness. Their story of change, while still in progress, has been an inspiration to others and deserves to be captured and shared more broadly. The twenty-minute film will be released on opening night of the NAPSA conference in Denver and then available on our website afterward. We may not win an Oscar for best movie, but what we have won moves us closer to a safe, fair and effective system in Colorado. And when one (state) among us wins, we all win.

If you see me at the conference, please take a moment to introduce yourself. And for those of you who can’t make it this year, NAPSA will be announcing the site of the 43rd annual conference next week!

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What Is Needed

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By Cherise Fanno Burdeen, Executive Director of the Pretrial Justice Institute

Last week, I travelled to Breckenridge, CO for the 2014 National Forum on Criminal Justice, hosted by the National Criminal Justice Association (NCJA), the Justice Research and Statistics Association (JRSA) and the IJIS Institute (IJIS). It was a great opportunity to engage with NCJA members, who are the staff of state administering agencies that make strategic use of federal formula funding for criminal justice efforts. While there, I also spent time with PJI’s Mike Jones and consultant friend Meghan Guevara, who are both based in Colorado. Working in a virtual office has benefits, but there is nothing like spending a little quality time with your colleagues.

The forum’s focus on “what is needed” — “integrating policy, research and technology to improve public safety” — is particularly relevant to the pretrial justice community. At Monday’s “Breakfast with the Experts,” I talked with policy makers from a state that has recently decided to tackle pretrial justice, having had success already with the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative. It was great to talk with them about some of the best ways to start this conversation on the state level – getting some hard data on the status of pretrial justice in counties that make up the majority of criminal case filings; hosting a statewide conversation about that data; comparing the policies and system outcomes for adults in state court to those in place for juveniles and federal defendants; and creating a vision for pretrial justice and jail usage for their state.

At a workshop on pretrial innovation that I attended, Matt Alsdorf, Director of Criminal Justice at the Laura and John Arnold Foundation, shared information about their pretrial research and their resulting risk assessment tool. No matter how many times I hear this presentation, I am always amazed and grateful for the Foundation’s work on this important component of pretrial justice reform. I also appreciated the presentation by Mike Wilson, consultant to the Crime and Justice Institute, who updated us on his analysis of the cost-benefit of pretrial reform. By collecting data about the financial benefits of moving to a risk-based decision making process, we add another very important element to the toolbox for pretrial reform.

The third presentation at this workshop was made by Stan Hilkey, the new Executive Director of the Colorado Department of Public Safety. Stan, in his prior role as the Sheriff of Mesa County, CO, was one of our earliest and most vocal pretrial “champions.” His new job puts him as the Chair of the Criminal and Juvenile Justice Commission, which has led pretrial reform at the state level for the last two years. Colorado has already gone far to improve its pretrial landscape in such a short time, and we have every reason to hope and expect that this momentum will carry us all forward.

PJI is fortunate to have many, diverse partners in our work—and the field of pretrial justice is fortunate to benefit from a variety of perspectives and models. Congratulations to NCJA and its partners for an amazing event!


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Tennessee ranks poorly for serving underprivileged children

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Tennessee often finds itself on the wrong end of many lists, but has separated itself from the bottom of the pack in a new WalletHub study that analyzed the best and worst states for underprivileged children for 2014. Tennessee ranks 37th among the 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. The study looked at 16 key metrics, ranging from infant death rates and children in foster care to instances of documented abuse. Scores were derived from each state’s health rank, education rank and how…

Child abuse handled by many agencies in Tenn.

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Tennessee is no stranger to child abuse. There were 10,108 abuse victims who suffered at the hands of 8,938 perpetrators statewide in 2012, according to Tennessee’s Child Advocacy Centers. Of those cases, 41 percent of the children had been exposed to drugs. Another 23 percent were victims of sexual abuse.
Tennessee’s issues represent a larger, national problem. Nationwide, there are more than 800,000 victims of child abuse each year, and studies show 95 percent of victims know their abusers.

Mexico’s Pretrial Transformation

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By Moises Santos, Supervising Pretrial Services Officer, Southern District of California

Early in June, Cherise Fanno Burdeen, Executive Director of the Pretrial Justice Institute (PJI), asked me to give a pretrial standards presentation in Spanish at the Second National Pretrial Services Conference in Morelos, Mexico. While there, I was also asked to participate in a roundtable discussion about risk assessment. The invitation was a surprise to say the least; however, it was also an honor, and I welcomed the opportunity.

In order to develop a pretrial service (PTS) process that works within their legal structure, Mexico has conducted research and borrowed practices, standards and methods from the U.S. and other countries. During the opening ceremony of the conference, a ranking member of the local government spoke about Mexico’s new era of criminal justice and emphasized the challenge of transforming the existing system. He described how this transformation will provide a defendant, at the earliest stage of a criminal proceeding, with the presumption of innocence, which is something Mexico has not previously openly granted individuals facing charges. Other reforms include the use of oral arguments and the establishment of PTS programs.

However, although Mexico’s federal bail law was amended in 2008, the process of reform has been slow. Currently, Morelos is one of only four states in the country with an operating PTS program. Meanwhile all 31 states are required by federal law to implement a PTS program by the end of this year. A primary goal of this conference was to guide new directors of PTS programs — many of whom presently hold positions as executives in different branches of law enforcement agencies — and judges, attorneys and pretrial staff members to implement PTS programs in their state.

During the conference, officials from the state of Morelos, which started the first PTS program in Mexico in 2011, described the positive impact of their program; since 2012 they have had a 70% release rate, with a 94% success rate. Another conference highlight was a live role-play of the PTS process, including a pre-bail interview, initial court hearing, bail hearing, post release intake interview and supervision process. In addition, participants received a PTS Implementation Manual which was published with the help of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). USAID has supported Mexico’s judicial reform since 2004 through on-going financial support of training programs and conferences and through the development of a record-keeping database.

While at the conference, I also learned about specific challenges Mexico faces in implementing PTS. For example, one of their biggest hurdles appears to be the lack of funding because their law did not designate which branch of the government would oversee the PTS program, nor did it allocate funding. Without specific infrastructure funding, PTS directors are planning to conduct their work within existing detention facilities and police departments and to train existing police and correctional staff in this new capacity instead of hiring PTS staff. Also, due to the absence of a comprehensive database of criminal and public records, Mexico’s investigation/verification process is much more difficult than ours.

Under Mexico’s law, PTS programs cannot provide bail investigation information directly to the judiciary but only to the prosecutor and defense attorney, who will ultimately decide what information will be shared with the judicial officer. This is perhaps where our country’s federal pre-bail process and Mexico’s pre-bail process differ the most; we are statutorily obligated to make our information available to the Court, they are not.

Overall, participating in this Conference provided me with a valuable perspective on what it must have been like when our country initiated pretrial services programs. It was enlightening and inspiring to see a group of individuals, specifically pretrial practitioners, motivated to move forward and improve the front-end of Mexico’s criminal justice system.

Moises Santos has worked in pretrial services for 15 years and was the 2013 recipient of the National Association of Pretrial Service Agencies’ highest honor, the Ennis J. Olgiati Award, which recognizes lifetime achievement in the field of pretrial services.


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Legislature Passes Historic Overhaul of Bail System in New Jersey

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On Monday August 4, 2014 the New Jersey Legislature greatly improved the state’s criminal justice system when it passed two important pieces of legislation that will guarantee that more high-risk, dangerous defendants remain in jail prior to trial, while also ensuring that low and moderate risk, non-violent defendants are not held in jail prior to trial simply because they cannot afford bail. At the request of Governor Chris Christie over two years ago, policy makers and advocacy organizations have been examining the bail system and developing this legislation to improve justice outcomes, better protect the community and, ultimately, save taxpayer dollars.

Cherise Fanno Burdeen, the Executive Director of the Pretrial Justice Institute, a leading advocacy group promoting collaboration on safe, fair, and effective juvenile and adult pretrial justice practices and policies, applauded the legislation, noting that, “New Jersey has taken an important step in moving from a resource-based system to one that is risk-based and, in the process, made our communities safer and added fundamental fairness to the bail system. This smarter, fairer approach to bail will also be more cost-effective for New Jersey taxpayers and I encourage New Jerseyans to pass the amendment this fall.”

Roseanne Scotti, the New Jersey State Director of the Drug Policy Alliance, which has been instrumental in advancing these improvements to the pretrial system, called the legislation “an enormous victory for justice, fairness and public safety. Today, the New Jersey legislature voted in a bi-partisan effort to fix our broken bail system. The reforms New Jersey passed today – and the way those reforms were enacted – should become a model for the nation.”

The first part of the reform, SCR128, is a constitutional amendment that provides judicial officers with the ability to deny bail to individuals that pose an unmanageable risk to the community. The proposal now must be approved by the voters in the November 2014 General Election. A lot of misinformation surrounds this issue and the general public tends to be wary of preventive detention, so education will be a priority prior to November.

The second part of the reform, S946, requires the use of assessment tools to examine the risk of arrested individuals and allows non-monetary alternatives to bond. Up until now, New Jersey jails have needlessly incarcerated too many low and moderate risk indigent defendants, while too many dangerous defendants with access to money have been able to purchase their freedom, regardless of danger. Moving from a resource-based form of justice to one that relies on risk and appropriate risk mitigation will create a system that is fairer, safer and more cost efficient.

The Senate bills were passed last Thursday, July 31st, and the complementary House bills, ACR177 on the constitutional amendment and A1910 on the use of risk-assessment tools, passed August 4th.

In March of 2013, the Drug Policy Alliance published a report by Luminosity on the state of jails and jail populations in New Jersey. The study found that “nearly three-fourths of all New Jersey jail inmates were pending trial…” and that 12 percent of people incarcerated in New Jersey jails were held “solely due to an inability to pay $2,500 or less to secure their release pending disposition.”

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Defenders: Advocates for Pretrial Justice

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Defenders. The name makes them sound like superheroes. To many people who find themselves facing criminal charges, they are heroes. They are the tireless voice that advocates for defendants in justice systems that often favor the prosecution. And if they are public defenders working on behalf of low-income clients, their hours are long and the pay is low.

Defenders are often the heroes of the pretrial justice reform movement as well. They understand the importance of the pretrial stage of the justice process in determining subsequent outcomes for their clients. Defense counsel sees firsthand how clients who can afford to pay a money bond suffer financially (or it may cause their family to suffer financially); on the other hand, those who can’t afford bond sit behind bars while any stabilizing factors—jobs, housing, school, family, community—deteriorate. The longer they are detained prior to their trial, the more likely they are to be convicted or to succumb to the pressure to take a plea deal.

Across the country, defenders are taking a leadership role in advocating for pretrial justice reform. They are no longer just fighting for lower bond amounts, but embracing risk assessment tools to fight for their clients’ release prior to trial. For example:

In some Colorado jurisdictions, defenders get training on the Colorado Pretrial Assessment Tool (CPAT) so they understand the true risk level of their clients and can effectively argue and advocate for their release when appropriate.

Kentucky’s public advocate manual encourages defenders to appeal bail decisions. Once viewed as a lost cause, these types of appeals currently enjoy a 33 percent success rate, and, even more importantly, they are leading judges to make more evidence-based decisions related to the defendants’ risk assessments.

In Maryland, the entire pretrial system is on the verge of being reformed, spurred on by a successful lawsuit involving the state’s Public Defender, Paul DeWolfe. In that case, the Maryland Supreme Court found that defendants have a legal right to counsel at the first appearance because their liberty is in question at that stage. Mr. DeWolfe has become one of the state’s strongest voices for early counsel and the use of risk assessment.

We applaud these champions of defendant rights and of justice system integrity and recognize the importance of the work of groups such as the National Legal Aid and Defender Association (NLADA), the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL), the National Association for Public Defense (NAPD), and the Sixth Amendment Center. If pretrial reform is to move forward nationally, it will be in part thanks to the dedication and active involvement of these groups and their constituents.

Upcoming & recent defender trainings: NAPD: Pretrial 101 Webinar – July 25, 2014 NLADA Webinar Series: Defenders as Agents of Change


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National Sheriffs’ Conference Votes No on Commercial Bail Bonds Resolution

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By Gilliam County Sheriff Gary Bettencourt, President, Oregon State Sheriffs’ Association
Ada County Sheriff Gary Raney, Ada County, Idaho
Newport News Sheriff Gabe Morgan, City of Newport News, Virginia
Executive Director, Colorado Department of Public Safety Stan Hilkey, former Mesa County Sheriff

(Fort Worth, TX) – Lobbyists for the for-profit bail system hoped the National Sheriffs’ Association (NSA) would pass a Resolution in 2014 endorsing their industry. It was on the agenda last month at the NSA Summer Conference in Fort Worth. But the NSA “Jail, Detention and Corrections Committee” unanimously voted to oppose the for-profit bail system Resolutions, one of which ended with NSA “…recognizes and endorses the indispensable value of the commercial surety bail system to the criminal justice system.” In 2012, when NSA unanimously voted to recognize the contribution of pretrial services agencies to enhance public safety, it joined a dozen or so other national organizations representing criminal justice system policy makers who are joining together to push for better pretrial outcomes at lower costs to taxpayers.

The for-profit bail system’s lobbying of the NSA started in January during the 2014 NSA Winter Conference in Washington, DC in the Committee’s meeting. PJI Board Chair and Ada County Sheriff Gary Raney (Idaho), former Mesa County (Colorado) Sheriff Stan Hilkey (now Executive Director of the Colorado Department of Public Safety), and Oregon State Sheriffs’ Association General Manager Darrell Fuller objected to the Resolutions along with others observing the committee’s deliberations.

As a result, the proposed Resolutions were tabled until last week’s NSA Summer Conference. As the summer conference neared, Sheriffs Raney and Hilkey and GM Darrell Fuller worked with like-minded Sheriffs to build a strong coalition opposed to NSA endorsing the for-profit bail system. Simultaneously, Oregon Sheriffs initiated a more visible campaign against the Resolutions. Text of their email to Summer Conference attendees is below. Oregon, Illinois, Kentucky and Wisconsin are four states that have eliminated their for-profit bail system.



Dear Sheriff:


How would you react if Sheriffs from across a state line came into YOUR state to lobby YOUR state legislature in support of a bill YOU strongly oppose?


What would you think if the National Sheriffs’ Association provided written testimony at a legislative hearing in YOUR state in support of a bill that Sheriffs in your state unanimously oppose?


It could happen to Oregon Sheriffs.  And we’re asking you to help stop it.


During the NSA conference in Texas you may be asked to vote on a Resolution in support of the role played by commercial bail bondsmen. Oregon Sheriffs hope you will oppose the Resolution.


Our reason is simple:  Oregon Sheriffs, along with Police Chiefs, District Attorneys, the defense bar and others oppose creating a commercial bail bonds process in Oregon.  We don’t have one.  We don’t want one.


All Oregon Sheriffs oppose a commercial bail bonds system in Oregon and we hope you have our back.


And, Oregon isn’t the only state in which Sheriffs do not support the commercial bail industry.


If a National Sheriffs’ Association Resolution passes, it will certainly be submitted for the record at public hearings in our Capitol Building in Salem, Oregon.  The bail bonds industry will take advantage of the Resolution to show Sheriff’s support for commercial bail bonds despite UNANIMOUS OPPOSITION FROM ALL OREGON SHERIFFS.


This is a state issue, not a national issue.  We would never consider coming to your state to support legislation local Sheriffs oppose.  Please don’t let NSA come to Oregon, through a Resolution, to support legislation we oppose.  Thank you.


If you have any questions, please call or email.  Thank you for considering our request.


Gary Bettencourt, OSSA President, Gilliam County Sheriff, NSA Member (attending conference)
John Bishop, OSSA Vice President, Curry County Sheriff, NSA Member
Brian Wolfe, OSSA Secretary, Malheur County Sheriff, NSA Member
Tom Bergin, Clatsop County Sheriff, NSA Member
Larry Blanton, Deschutes County Sheriff, NSA Member
Jack Crabtree, Yamhill County Sheriff, NSA Member
Jeff Dickerson, Columbia County Sheriff, NSA Member
Dennis Dotson, Lincoln County Sheriff, NSA Member
Rick Eiesland, Wasco County Sheriff, NSA Member
Matt English, Hood River County Sheriff, NSA Member
Pat Garrett, Washington County Sheriff, NSA Member
Gil Gilbertson, Josephine County Sheriff, NSA Member
Dave Glerup, Harney County Sheriff, NSA Member
John Hanlin, Douglas County Sheriff, NSA Member
Jim Hensley, Crook County Sheriff, NSA Member
Chris Humphreys, Wheeler County Sheriff, NSA Member
Scott Jackson, Benton County Sheriff, NSA Member
Brad Lohrey, Sherman County Sheriff, NSA Member
Andy Long, Tillamook County Sheriff, NSA Member (attending conference)
Ken Matlack, Morrow County Sheriff, NSA Member
Phil McDonald, Lake County Sheriff, NSA Member
Jason Myers, Marion County Sheriff, NSA Member
Glenn Palmer, Grant County Sheriff
Boyd Ramussen, Union County Sheriff, NSA Member
Bruce Riley, Linn County Sheriff, NSA Member
Craig Roberts, Clackamas County Sheriff, NSA Member
Steve Rogers, Wallowa County Sheriff, NSA Member
Terry Rowan, Umatilla County Sheriff, NSA Member
Frank Skrah, Klamath County Sheriff, NSA Member
Mitch Southwick, Baker County Sheriff, NSA Member
Dan Staton, Multnomah County Sheriff, NSA Member, MCSA Member
Tom Turner, Lane County Sheriff, NSA Member
Mike Winters, Jackson County Sheriff, NSA Member
Bob Wolfe, Polk County Sheriff, NSA Member
Brian Wolfe, Malheur County Sheriff, NSA Member
Craig Zanni, Coos County Sheriff, NSA Member

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Colorado Continues its Journey Toward Improving Pretrial Justice

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In 2013, Colorado’s pretrial statute was rewritten to make the law more consistent with Supreme Court law, recent advances in pretrial research, and national best practice standards. Last week, Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper signed SB 14-212, a bill that cleans up and clarifies portions of the statute as well as rectifies some non-conforming language. Among other things, the new bill removed language that led a few judges in some Colorado courts to believe that charge-based money bond schedules were still lawful in Colorado. The new language clarifies that any bond schedule must include consideration of each defendant’s individual pretrial risk and that any secured amounts of bond money (through cash or surety bonds) must be both reasonable and necessary to assure the public’s safety and the defendant’s court appearance.

National pretrial legal expert Tim Schnacke, Executive Director of the non-profit Center for Legal and Evidence-Based Practices, revised his comprehensive review of Colorado’s pretrial statute to incorporate the nature and meaning of the new changes. The review can be downloaded here.

In other news, the Jefferson County Bail Project, one of the local projects that paved the way for many of Colorado’s recent statewide pretrial justice improvements—including the new statute—is now described in two publications.

For the first, The Jefferson County Bail Project: Lessons Learned From a Process of Pretrial Change at the Local Level, recounts the process of change that decision-makers went through to design, implement, and evaluate a pilot project testing many of the national best practice pretrial standards. Successes, challenges, and lessons learned are described so that other pretrial stakeholders can benefit from their Jefferson County counterparts’ experience as they undertake local or statewide pretrial justice change.

The second publication, The Jefferson County Bail Project: Impact Study Found Better Cost-Effectiveness for Unsecured Recognizance Bonds Over Cash and Surety Bonds, presents the outcomes of the Project. The study, which used a quasi-experimental design, found that judges who set a high number of secured cash or surety bonds achieve the same public safety and court appearance outcomes as do judges who use high amounts of unsecured recognizance bonds, but did so while expending more local jail resources. Interestingly, this study found the same pattern of results in Jefferson County that a 2013 PJI study found statewide in Colorado, even though the two studies used different methodologies. Both studies have direct implications for judges’ day-to-day decisions about which types of bond are both most effective and most efficient.


The Jefferson County Bail Project: Lessons Learned from a Process of Pretrial Change at the Local Level
Jefferson County Bail Project- Lessons Learned - PJI 2014.pdf
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Details Category:PJI Reports Date:June 25, 2014 The Jefferson County Bail Project: Impact Study Found Better Cost-Effectiveness for Unsecured Recognizance Bonds Over Cash and Surety Bonds
Jeffersion County Bail Project- Impact Study - PJI 2014.pdf
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Details Category:PJI Reports Date:June 25, 2014

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Can the Affordable Care Act Reduce Pretrial Detention?

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By Seema Gajwani


As a public defender in the District of Columbia I would spend a couple of days a month in the basement courtroom of DC Superior Court handling arraignments. There, newly arrested individuals would come before a judge who would make the critical decision about whether they would be detained in DC Jail pending trial or released under supervision to return for their next court date.

Day in and day out, I would see people come through arraignment court in need of substance abuse or mental health treatment. Actually, it was clear to everyone in the courtroom –  the judge, prosecutor, court clerk, and members of the audience  -  when someone was strung out or mentally ill. What everyone in the courtroom also knew was that there was virtually no way that the court could provide those individuals treatment for their needs immediately.

At that time, almost a decade ago, most of the drug treatment was either substandard or unavailable, and there were long waiting lists at clinics that offered mental health care. Connecting the individual standing before the judge to quality treatment in the community in real time to treat or manage the behavioral health needs that quite likely triggered their involvement in the criminal justice system was an elusive dream. Often, in the eyes of the judge, an untreated drug problem, untreated alcohol addiction, or untreated mental illness made defendants risky to the community and ineligible for release. And so, people were sent to jail.

We know that jailing low and medium-risk people hurts them and makes them more dangerous. Research shows that if you compare two people with the same charged offense and same criminal history, the one who is jailed pretrial will likely get a worse plea offer, a longer sentence, and will be more likely to get rearrested in the future. And, jailing low-risk defendants for even short periods of time destabilizes the very things that make them low-risk, such as a job, child care obligations, and stable housing. With supervision and treatment for behavioral health issues, more low-risk individuals could be kept in the community.

Untreated behavioral health problems are rampant among the 11 million people cycling through America’s 3,300 local jails annually. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, approximately three-quarters of jail inmates are incarcerated for nonviolent offenses. And, compared with the general public, people in jails (disproportionately male, of color, and poor) have higher rates of substance abuse disorders, mental illness, and other chronic health conditions. According to recent research, 15 percent of men and 30 percent of women enter jail with disabling mental health conditions.

Jails were not designed to treat these disorders at these rates. Yet, the three largest in-patient psychiatric facilities in the country are LA County Jail, Rikers Island Jail in New York, and Cook County Jail in Chicago. If the court system could access treatment for the underlying behavioral health needs of low-risk defendants at the pretrial decision-making point, perhaps fewer would be detained at the outset.

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) presents the opportunity to test that hypothesis. In many states, the ACA will provide health insurance to millions of poor, childless adults who were previously uncovered. Importantly, the ACA does not cover treatment while incarcerated. But, for the first time, the ACA could provide funding for treatment as an alternative to incarceration for judges to offer instead of jail, before individuals are incarcerated.

Receiving behavioral health care before being incarcerated -especially for low and medium-risk individuals – could reduce their likelihood of getting involved in the criminal justice system in the future. One study showed that substance abuse treatment provided to low-income populations decreased future arrests by up to 33 percent. Such early intervention could reduce incarceration and reduce recidivism, a win-win situation for individuals, victims, and communities.

Treatment as an alternative to pretrial detention could also result in considerable cost savings for counties and states. Medicaid will reimburse counties for the costs of approved treatment for newly covered individuals through the first years of ACA implementation. Those Medicaid funds could save counties the recurring costs of incarceration and jail-provided health care. Early and continued treatment also reduces use of the most expensive public health options – ambulatory and emergency room care. In the long term, reduced pretrial detention can reduce post-conviction incarceration in jails and prisons, leading to cost savings throughout the criminal justice system.

The Affordable Care Act presents an exciting new opportunity to re-envision the intersection of the criminal justice and public health systems, and improve outcomes in both fields. To maximize this opportunity we must tap these possibilities at the very front end of the criminal justice system, at the pretrial decision-making stage. The results could include a significant reduction in jail detention, healthier individuals who are less prone to criminal behavior, and tremendous savings for states and counties. Envisioning a court that can refer individuals to quality treatment as easily as it can detain defendants may no longer be a pipe dream.


Seema Gajwani is a Program Officer for the Criminal Justice Program at the Public Welfare Foundation


Related resource:

The Patient Protection And Affordable Care Act And The Pretrial System - NAPSA 2014
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and the Pretrial System - NAPSA 2014.pdf
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Details Tags:health, health care, aca Category:Law/Policy Date:April 8, 2014

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Tim Murray Honored by National Association of Drug Court Professionals

Pretrial Justice -

First-Time Ever Founders Award Given to Nation’s Top Advocate for More Effective Criminal Justice Practices

Yesterday at the 25th anniversary of the National Association of Drug Court Professionals (NADCP) conference in Anaheim, California, Tim Murray, current Director Emeritus and former Executive Director of the Pretrial Justice Institute, was honored for his lifelong service on behalf of criminal justice with the organization’s one-and-only Founders Award.  As a leading visionary for the drug court model and through his determination and guidance, hundreds of thousands of mentally-ill and substance using offenders are getting the help they need, their lives restored and their families back.

West Huddleston, in his welcome letter to conference attendees, noted that with an initiative that  started twenty-five years ago in Miami-Dade County, Florida, there are today “over 2,840 Drug Courts…in operation in all fifty states and U.S. territories, successfully treating 142,000 drug-addicted individuals a year. After 25 years, Drug Courts have saved over 1.3 million lives and billions of tax dollars, forever changing the course of a predominate ‘lock’em up’ philosophy in America and proving once and for all that treatment does work when accompanied by accountability. Due in large part to the extraordinary success of Drug Courts, after four decades of escalating prison populations, the rate of incarceration in the U.S. has dropped three consecutive years. And, it is estimated that seventeen states are now expected to lower prisoner populations and save billions through innovative justice reforms, including significant Drug Court expansion.”

Actor Joaquin Phoenix presented the award to Murray during the first day of the three-day long convening, which brought together representatives from the Department of Justice, National District Attorneys Association, Office of National Drug Control Policy, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, National Legal Aid and Defender Association, National Transportation Safety Board, political figures from State Houses and U.S. Congress, as well as entertainment figures (Melanie Griffith, Matthew Perry, Denise Richards, Martin Sheen, Paul Williams), among hundreds of other activists and policy leaders.

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Inmates receive GEDs at justice center service

Hawkins County Rodgersville -

<p class="MsoNormal" style="text-indent:.25in">ROGERSVILLE -- Crime may have landed them behind bars, but on Thursday of this week, through hard work and lots of study time, eight men incarcerated at the Hawkins Co. Jail were presented with "a certificate to a better life" ... their High School General Equivalency Diploma.</p>

Freedom Healthcare of America acquires two addiction services and behavioral health providers

Nashville Biz Journal -

Nashville-based Freedom Healthcare of America, which does business as Addiction Campuses of America, has raised $3.8 million in a Series A funding round and acquired two addiction treatment and behavioral health companies, according to a news release. Addiction Campuses of America, based in Brentwood, bought Murfreesboro-based Spring2Life along with Turning Point Recovery, which operates in north Mississippi and Memphis, Tenn., the release says. Both programs will be integrated with the company's…

Another Tragedy and A Ray of Hope

Pretrial Justice -

On May 8, 2014 in Colorado, another tragedy occurred highlighting the need for pretrial reform. State Trooper Eugene Hofacker was shot twice while stopping to help a man with a broken-down vehicle on the interstate. Trooper Hofacker was, at the time of writing, still in the hospital and recovering. The man who shot him, Thomas Ornelas, is dead, killed by another trooper who was with Hofacker at the time. The shooter was awaiting trial for an attempted murder charge, having been released from custody on a $75,000 bond. The incident is yet another example of how important pretrial release and detention decisions are, and how little the setting of money bond does to protect us from harm. This case points to one very important element of needed pretrial reform, not just in Colorado, but also across the country.  And it’s not that bond amounts should be higher.

With a long criminal history, including a conviction for murder when he was a teen, Ornelas scored high on the Mesa County pretrial risk assessment tool and was a prime candidate for pretrial detention. However, in states like Colorado that don’t have effective preventive detention statutes written into law (Colorado’s preventive detention statute is too limited to be practical), the courts are forced to set a financial release condition – $75,000 in this case – and hope that it’s high enough that the defendant can’t meet it. Thomas Ornelas could. He used the services of a bail bondsman to secure his release, paying only 15% or less of the full amount. Because the bail bond transaction is considered a private business deal, the actual amount Ornelas paid to be released is not public information.

It’s not that it should have been more than 15%, or that 100% cash bond (full amount paid to the court) was the answer. Being able to detain, through a due process hearing, someone too dangerous to be released was the answer.  But in CO, and in many states, the statutes don’t give judges this vital tool for public safety. It’s like sending cops on the street without vests – a bad policy that will lend itself to a bad outcome, always just a matter of time.

Policies that base release on how much money a defendant can pay rather than the risks they pose to the community damage our justice systems and allow for loopholes. They offer a way out for high-risk defendants with the means to make a bond and recent research has shown that half of the most dangerous defendants are getting out pretrial, as in this case. These policies also trap lower risk defendants who are poor in expensive jail beds, destabilizing them by disrupting employment, housing and family. The system is upside down, dangerous, and expensive.  And we can do better, if the legislature in CO and other states can withstand the lobbying power of the commercial surety industry. They are happy with things just as they are.

There was an ironic twist to the events of the day of the shooting; one that bodes well for pretrial reform in Colorado. The attack on Trooper Hofacker occurred only hours before Sheriff Stan Hilkey of Mesa County, Colorado announced he will be taking the position of Executive Director of the Colorado Department of Public Safety, the agency which, among many other things, oversees the Colorado State Patrol. The irony comes from the fact that, as Sheriff, Hilkey has been a champion of pretrial reform in his county and state (and across the nation), and he understands that the tools exist to do better. He co-led the effort in his county to introduce pretrial risk assessment which gave the courts an empirical measurement of just how dangerous Ornelas was. Hilkey knows how money-based pretrial decisions fail to protect law enforcement officers and the public from potentially dangerous defendants. He has been a vocal supporter of not only the use of pretrial risk assessment, but also policies and practices that support a risk-based system such as supervision and monitoring and preventive detention statutes.

In his new role as Director of Public Safety, Hilkey will have the opportunity to improve Colorado’s pretrial justice systems statewide, not just in his county. In spite of the power of those who have a financial interest in maintaining an unsafe money-based system, this new chance to utilize soon-to-be Director Hilkey’s pretrial justice expertise and address unjust and counterproductive pretrial practices really should not be a hard sell for the people of Colorado and their leaders. A body of research shows how risk-based systems are safer, fairer and more effective than resource-based systems, while worst case scenarios like the shooting of Trooper Hofacker demonstrate how, much too often, current practices don’t meet even the basic requirement of ensuring public safety.

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Closing the “Detention Gap”

Pretrial Justice -

There are reasons that, after arrest and before trial, a small number of defendants should be detained. Access to money should never be one of those reasons. When it is, it results in a “detention gap,” another way in our society that those with money fare better while those without do not.

As a society that strives to eliminate injustice, we often focus on identifying and repairing gaps caused by economic and social disparities. For example, in education there is the “achievement gap,” the disparity in test scores between poor students and students from higher income backgrounds. Poorly resourced education can be the beginning of a long list of unfavorable outcomes: high dropout rates, low earnings potential, even poor health. As a nation we have been trying for decades to fix this. We give “highly qualified” teachers incentives to work in under-resourced schools, provide reduced-cost meals to low-income students and commit money and support to numerous programs to try to reduce the achievement gap.

Health care is another realm where the level of service and access to service is greatly determined by how much you can pay and other economic factors. Some refer to this as the “health care gap.” Those with good jobs and good health coverage enjoy some of the finest care in the world, often for little to no out-of-pocket costs, while the under or uninsured don’t seek preventive health care and treatment because they simply can’t afford it. If they do seek help, they must endure long waits in emergency rooms that have essentially become the only health care outlets for the poor. There have also been efforts to close this social service gap through Medicaid, the Affordable Care Act and other attempts at universal coverage.

The “detention gap” occurs when decisions about pretrial release are resource-based; decided by a defendant’s ability to pay a financial bond. When this happens, those with money benefit while those without suffer, regardless of their individual risk of not returning to court or of endangering public safety. The way in which they suffer is through unnecessary detention that, like a lack of education or health care, starts a snowball effect of increasingly worse outcomes. Detained defendants are more likely to be convicted at trial, more likely to be incarcerated upon conviction and more likely to receive longer sentences than defendants who await trial in the community. And the decision of whether or not to detain is often based solely on an individual’s ability to satisfy a financial release condition. Can they pay a bond? This has created a “detention gap” between the haves and have-nots in society much like the gaps in student achievement and access to health care.

Like the fields of education and health care, there are solutions to the “detention gap,” many of them straight-forward and inexpensive, yet political. Primarily, moving from resource-based decision-making to risk-based pretrial policies in which each pretrial release decision is based on a defendant’s measured risk of not returning to court or of being re-arrested can help to mitigate system inequities. Proven tools exist that measure these risks with great validity using commonly available data.

Across the country, policy makers and practitioners are making changes to systems that allow those with money to be released pretrial while those without are detained, without regard to risk. Let’s support them and these efforts.

Let’s close the “detention gap.”

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Gallaher facing domestic assault charge

Rohan County, Kingston -

Harriman attorney Donice Butler said Eric Gallaher is innocent of the domestic assault charge levied against him by Rockwood police.

“I don’t think the police had to charge him with domestic assault,” Butler said.

“I think if it had been someone else, another decision might have been made.”

Gallaher was arrested on April 15 after he was spotted by a Roane County Sheriff’s Office deputy on routine patrol.

New Jersey — The Future of Bail in America

Pretrial Justice -

This blog post originally appeared on Bail Basics on March 25, 2014.

By Tim Schnacke

Here is a link to a report issued by New Jersey’s Joint Committee on Criminal Justice, the committee created by the Chief Justice to address issues at bail.

The document is remarkable for many reasons, but mostly because it represents the first time an entire state has figured out the essence of what is needed for bail reform in America and is actually going to work to achieve it. The document reports “problems at both ends of the spectrum,” meaning that it is having trouble with both “bail,” or release, and “no bail,” or detention, in that state.

States can create a model bail scheme by simply recognizing the sorts of things that New Jersey has recognized. First, both “bail” and “no bail” are lawful if we do them correctly. Thus, it is entirely proper for a state to change its statutes (and constitution, if necessary as it is in New Jersey) to set up a scheme in which people are both released and detained pretrial in the proper ratio.

Second, doing each part correctly is not so hard, as we have currently the sort of research, best practice recommendations, and model jurisdictions to help with both “bail” and “no bail.” Essentially, the no bail side has to hold up to various constitutional principles designed to make it extremely limited. The bail side must use evidence-based policies and practices designed to attain the three goals underlying the bail process: (1) maximize release of bailable defendants; (2) maximize public safety; and (3) maximize court appearance. The hardest part is simply figuring out how to infuse empirical pretrial risk into a system that has for too long been based on inefficient proxies for risk, such as top charge.

Overall, we must watch the New Jersey experience closely, for if we look at our American bail laws today, we see that virtually every state is in need of reform. In many states, that means changing both statutes and constitutions to best effectuate the “bail/no bail” dichotomy. Moreover, New Jersey is a good example of what we call a “top-down” state, in which prominent state leaders, such as the Governor and Chief Justice, have declared that bail will be reformed. I have personally seen that the progress made by “top down” states eclipses whatever progress we have seen in “bottom up” states, such as Colorado, in which a few committed reformers continually fight special interests without the help of most state leaders.

Tim Schnacke is the Executive Director of the Center for Legal and Evidence-Based Practices.

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BJA Announces Solicitation for New Smart Pretrial Demonstration Initiative

Pretrial Justice -

(Washington DC, April 10, 2014) – Yesterday the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) announced they are seeking applications for the Smart Pretrial Demonstration Initiative (SPDI) grant as part of their “smart suite.” The SPDI grant program seeks to build upon analysis-driven, evidence-based pretrial justice by encouraging local and tribal jurisdictions to effectively implement risk assessment and appropriate supervision and/or diversion strategies targeting pretrial outcomes within their jurisdiction.

The Smart Pretrial Demonstration Initiative is an opportunity for local jurisdictions to improve the front-end of their criminal justice systems. Over the past several years BJA has supported the efforts of the Pretrial Justice Working Group to help implement changes to the current bail system in America. With wide support from a broad array of organizations, including the Conference of Chief Justices, the International Association of Chiefs of Police, the National Association of Counties and many more, recipients of the SPDI grant will have resources at their disposal to make change.

Because improvements to the pretrial system involve all local leaders, an important component of SPDI focuses on bringing together all key stakeholders, including Chief Judges, Chief Public Defenders and/or Leadership from the Private Defense Bar, Elected Prosecutors, Jail Administrators or County Sheriffs, City Police Chiefs or other lead Law Enforcement Entities, Directors of Pretrial Services, Community Corrections/Chief Probation Officers, and Elected County Officials or County Executives.

Under this solicitation, BJA will make up to three awards that cover both Phase 1 and 2 at up to $100,000 per year, for a total budget of $200,000. Applicants should prepare 2-year budgets. Awards will contain special conditions that will require submission and approval of plans for release of budget conditions for Phase 2. For Phase 3, BJA anticipates awarding a supplemental award for up to $100,000 based on successful site performance.

Applications are due by 11:59 p.m. eastern time on May 27, 2014.

Leading up to the application deadline, BJA and the Pretrial Justice Institute (PJI), in partnership with the National Association of Counties (NACo) will provide a short informational video to assist locations in understanding the key elements of the project and the application process. Two Q&A sessions will also be provided to answer any questions about the application process and the project.

Informational video available April 22 Q&A sessions: April 29, 2-3 pm EDT & May 6, 2-3 pm EDT

Please visit regularly or sign up to receive emails from PJI for more information about the informational video and Q&A sessions. Click here to view the entire solicitation.


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Pretrial Research: A Solid Foundation and Growing Field

Pretrial Justice -

Every January in Las Vegas the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) provides a sort of coming out party for all the new gadgets and technology in the consumer market. All the big name manufacturers as well as small startups vie for the attention of reporters and wholesale buyers with fancy new products and flashy demonstrations.

Yesterday at the Rayburn Building on Capitol Hill, the pretrial justice research and reform community held its own CES-like event, albeit without nearly as much bang or bling.

The Congressional Briefing, Pretrial Justice: Research Evidence and Future Prospects, conducted jointly by George Mason University’s Center for Evidence-Based Crime Policy (CEBCP) and the Pretrial Justice Institute (PJI) brought together some of the top researchers and practitioners in the pretrial field. The roster was impressive:

  • The Honorable James G. Carr, US District Court Judge, Northern District of Ohio;
  • James Austin, Ph.D., President, The JFA Institute;
  • Marie VanNostrand, Ph.D., Justice Project Manager at Luminosity, Inc.;
  • Tim Cadigan, Senior Associate at Chesterfield Associates of Maryland;
  • Alex Holsinger, Ph.D., University of Missouri-Kansas City;
  • David Huffer, Ph.D., Director, Office of Research and Evaluation, Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency for the District of Columbia;
  • Melissa Labriola, Associate Director of Research, Center for Court Innovation;
  • Jerry McElroy, Executive Director, New York City Criminal Justice Agency;
  • Michael Wilson, Crime and Justice Institute.

This esteemed group of panelists each gave brief presentations of recent work and experiences with pretrial justice systems, their problems and examples of proven solutions. From an overview of arrest and jail population trends for the last several decades to a promising new model of cost-benefit analysis for pretrial systems to a description of exciting new prosecutor-led pretrial diversion programs, the scope and depth of the material was vast.

The pretrial reform movement is not one lonely academic or practitioner reshaping practice or theory about what works in pretrial justice. It is the cumulative work of thousands of people, like the panelists listed above, who are helping to bring pretrial into a new age.

The videos of the April 1st congressional briefing will be available soon at CEBCP’s site and on The next CEBCP event will be their annual symposium, June 23-24, 2014.

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Jerome Murdough Tragedy Shows Where the System Failed and What Needs to be Fixed

Pretrial Justice -

This article originally appeared on the Huffington Post on March 28, 2014.

By Tim Murray, Pretrial Justice Institute; Retired U.S. Marine & Melissa Fitzgerald, Actor; Senior Director; Justice for Vets

Last month, a veteran U.S. Marine “basically baked to death” in a New York City jail after a malfunctioning heating system caused the temperature in his cell to exceed 100 degrees. Jerome Murdough was being held not because he was convicted of a crime or because he had a violent criminal history that made him a risk to the public. Rather, Jerome Murdough died in a 6-by-10 cinder block cell because the system failed him as a veteran, and he couldn’t afford the bail that was set for his release.

Homeless and looking for a warm place to sleep on a cold night in February, Murdough was arrested for trespassing on the roof of an apartment building in Harlem. He was presented with two options: (1) either pay the city $2,500 in order to be released — a cost-prohibitive sum for someone without a job or a home, or (2) be detained on Rikers Island and wait for his case to be adjudicated, a process that can take months or even years.

The system failed in this case, in a significant way. By not having community-based supervision assets, the court in NYC had no way to address Murdough’s need for support pending trial. New York’s bail laws were never updated to include community safety as a legitimate purpose of bail, and so no investment has even been made in what research shows works — pretrial community-based supervision that mitigates the risk of flight and re-arrest. The only “tool” the court has to use, then, is money — either pay bail or stay in jail. It’s a crude tool, a double-edged sword. It favors people with it, punishes those without. It rewards those with access to cash — often ill-gotten — and keeps those who need support and services to cease further low-level criminal behavior in a system guaranteed to make them worse off, not better.

Today, there are hundreds of thousands of low-risk individuals unnecessarily occupying jail beds who haven’t been convicted of a crime. They are there because, like Murdough, they can’t afford the cost of release. One doesn’t even have to leave Rikers Island to find another disturbing example of this system at work. Kalief Browder, 16 years old at the time of his arrest and unable to afford his $10,000 bail, was held on Rikers Island for nearly three years without ever having been convicted of a crime or put on trial. He was released late last year with no explanation.

While there are a number of effective ways we can fix the broken pretrial system, two in particular stand out as being relevant to Murdough’s case: the shift from a resource-based pretrial system to risk-based pretrial system, and the need to properly identify, assess and divert veterans like Murdough who simply need access to the treatment and benefits they have earned.

In a resource-based pretrial system, access to cash determines what happens. If you are poor, you stay in jail pending trial. If you stay in jail pending trial, you are more likely to be adjudicated guilty. If you are adjudicated guilty, you are more likely to get a sentence that includes incarceration. If you serve time in jail or prison, you are more likely to commit more crime when you get out. So, this first decision — to release or detain before trial — determines pretty much everything that will happen from that point forward. Instead, jurisdictions can make better use of risk assessments to help understand who can be issued a citation in lieu of arrest and who can be released after booking with supervision conditions monitored by the court. Murdough did not have to be in jail pending trial — if NYC had the cost-efficient and necessary supervision strategies it needs, he could have been out pending trial, supervised and connected to the services he needed, such as those provided by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Don’t forget, he was arrested for trespassing on a night it was freezing out. That was his crime — and one for which he died. It didn’t have to be that way.

Like Murdough, tens of thousands of veterans are living on the street, and many more are languishing behind bars for crimes that were a result of unmet behavioral health needs like addiction, depression or post-traumatic stress disorder. Across the country Veterans Treatment Courts have emerged as a response to increasing numbers of veterans coming before the courts, but they must be rapidly expanded in order to meet a growing need. Murdough had a history of misdemeanor convictions, common among those with unaddressed issues and chronic homelessness. Had a Veterans Treatment Court been available, he could have been diverted out of the traditional revolving-door system and connected to the services he needed to get his life back on track. Jerome Murdough fought for our freedom, and we did nothing to fight for his.

As the investigation into Murdough’s death continues, it is important to remember that unless we fundamentally reform the way in which we approach the pretrial process by using tested, best-practice tools, we will be reading about another “Jerome Murdough” in the near future. We are leaving too many men behind.

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Formerly homeless woman recalls personal journey of restoration

Newport - Cocke County -

Newport, Tennessee Nelson Morais Formerly homeless woman recalls personal journey of restoration Formerly homeless woman recalls personal journey of restoration Formerly homeless woman recalls personal journey of restoration Formerly homeless woman recalls personal journey of restoration Formerly homeless woman recalls personal journey of restoration The Newport Plain Talk Change 0 Usable None 2014-03-20T11:44:56Z 2014-03-27T11:44:56Z 2014-03-20T11:44:56Z

Progress Towards Pretrial Policy and Practice Reform Hits Unprecedented Levels

Pretrial Justice -

Two Years Following the National Symposium on Pretrial Justice, Progress towards Enactment Is Detailed in Latest Annual Report

Washington D.C. (March 12, 2014) – Today a comprehensive national report on pretrial justice activities was issued by the Pretrial Justice Working Group, a standing, multi-disciplinary working group of national and regional leaders in criminal justice convened under the direction of the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Justice Programs (OJP).  The report outlines the specific recommendations agreed to during the National Symposium on Pretrial Justice in 2011 and the previous year’s progress towards adoption of these recommendations.  The annual report offers guidance in the following areas: Policy and Practice Enhancement, Stakeholder Groups, Department of Justice Programs, Legislators, Philanthropic Community, and the Academic Community.

The 2013 progress report includes:

  • more than 110 updates encompassing the work of more than 100 organizations;
  • regional-based work in more than 25 states;
  • examples of diverse initiatives that are national in scope; and
  • the collaborative activities of pretrial justice stakeholders and leaders who serve different roles within the criminal justice system (i.e., judges, prosecutors, defenders, pretrial services practitioners, law enforcement professionals, government agencies, nonprofits, academia and watchdog and civil liberties groups.)

“The Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) is pleased to have supported the work of the Pretrial Justice Working Group (PJWG) over the last three years,” said Denise O’Donnell, Director of the Bureau of Justice Assistance. “Rarely have I seen a group of leaders come together so cohesively to advance a mission so critical to the criminal justice system. I want to thank the members of the PJWG for their dedication in developing and implementing fair, effective, and safe pretrial practices across the United States.”

The partners of the Pretrial Justice Working Group are engaged in this collaborative work because, contrary to its mandate, the current pretrial system does not promote public safety, fair and equal treatment of defendants or the effective use of community resources.  It is a system based on a defendant’s financial resources, not their measured risk.

  • Too many jail inmates in the U.S. are held pretrial simply because they cannot afford their money bond.
  • Only five percent of all arrestees ultimately go to prison, yet almost fifty percent of those arrested are incarcerated pending the outcome of their case(s).
  • Research has found that even short periods of pretrial detention of low and moderate risk defendants increase their likelihood to commit crime in the future.
  • Most jurisdictions do not require a risk assessment to determine if a defendant would present a real risk to the community if they are released prior to their trial.
  • Many states do not allow for preventive detention for non-capital offenses or pretrial supervision for those who could be safely released to the community.
  • The average pretrial jail bed cost is $60 per day—as much as $200 per day in some jurisdictions—with a total cost to the country of $9 billion per year.

In 2011, current U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder convened a National Symposium on Pretrial Justice to bring together leading advocacy groups, policymakers, law enforcement officers, jail and prison administrators, prosecutors and judges from across the country to design appropriate procedures to detain without bail those defendants who were deemed too dangerous for release and safeguard due process and civil rights for those who were eligible for release.

“Momentum has built to a remarkable degree on pretrial justice reform and it continues to achieve new levels of recognition and acceptance,” offered Cherise Fanno Burdeen, Chief Operating Officer, Pretrial Justice Institute. “This is a pivotal period for the reform effort and the flurry of activity memorialized in this report shows we are seeing tremendous progress towards smarter pretrial policies and practices.”


Implementing The Recommendations Of The National Symposium On Pretrial Justice: The 2013 Progress Report
Implementing the Recommendations of the National Symposium on Pretrial Justice- The 2013 Progress Report.pdf
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Details Tags:PJWG Category:infostop Date:March 12, 2014 Implementing the Recommendations of the National Symposium on Pretrial Justice: The 2013 Progress Report (Executive Summary)
2013 Progress Report Executive Summary.pdf
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Details Tags:PJWG Category:infostop Date:March 12, 2014


Selected Updates

The Pretrial Justice Institute, a leading advocacy group promoting collaboration on safe, fair, and effective juvenile and adult pretrial justice practices and policies, compiled this report, along with dozens of other partners representing every aspect of the pretrial justice system.  Highlights of their accomplishments in 2013 include the following regional work:

  • In May, Colorado enacted a new bail statute (HB 13-1236) which, among other things, de-emphasizes secured financial release conditions and charged-based bond schedules and promotes empirical risk assessment.  Throughout the year, PJWG partners explained the new statute and supporting empirical research about the utility of unsecured bonds which do not require money upfront and introduced the new Colorado Pretrial Assessment Tool (CPAT) to counties and judicial districts in Colorado through presentations and training sessions to judges and magistrates, prosecutors, public defenders, pretrial services practitioners and other justice system stakeholders.
  • The Pretrial Release Subcommittee of the Maryland Governor’s Task Force on Laws and Policies Relating to Indigent Criminal Defendants convened periodically to develop pretrial justice recommendations. The group recommended moving away from money and towards risk based release decision making and expanding the use of supervision and monitoring. Members of the Governor’s Task Force agreed to move forward with five of the six recommendations, and the Governor is now in talks with legislative leadership about legislatively improving pretrial justice in the state.
  • Throughout 2013, PJWG partners conducted a range of pretrial technical assistance and training activities to support the efforts of California counties to implement or enhance evidence-based pretrial services programs as a response to Criminal Justice Realignment, which shifts many of California’s convicted inmates from state to county incarceration and supervision. With 63 percent of California jail populations comprised of pretrial inmates, counties throughout the state are looking for ways to safely reduce the pretrial jail population.
  • In April 2013, Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) released a report profiling the jail population in New Jersey, which garnered major media attention and focused legislators and the public on New Jersey’s broken pretrial justice system. The report also caught the attention of the New Jersey Chief Justice Stuart Rabner, who convened a taskforce to review pretrial justice practices and make recommendations on reform.
  • The Kentucky Department of Public Advocacy has been leading the way in protecting low and moderate risk defendants’ state-mandated right to non-financial release and is being used as a model for initiatives in other states.
  • Pretrial and bail reform legislation was introduced in a variety of states. In Wisconsin a regressive bill was initiated to reintroduce the commercial bail bonds industry into the state. This bill was vetoed by the Governor after a short, but strong campaign supported by PJWG members. In February, New York State Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman highlighted the need for an overhaul of New York’s bail system in a State of the Judiciary speech which quickly gained national attention, reigniting a public discussion of pretrial practices in the U.S.

In 2013, PJWG also continued its primary strategy of cultivating pretrial justice stakeholders to become advocates for change in the current pretrial justice system.

  •  At the Conference of Chief Justices mid­year meeting in the beginning of 2013, the nation’s highest ranking state judicial officers adopted a bold and historic resolution calling upon state courts to “adopt evidence based pretrial practices” and to “advocate for presumptive non­financial pretrial release.” In taking this step, the Conference of Chief Justices joined with the National Association of Counties, the International Association of Chiefs of Police, the Association of Prosecuting Attorneys, the American Probation and Parole Association, the American Council of Chief Defenders, the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, and the Conference of State Court Administrators — all of which have passed similar pretrial justice resolutions in the previous two years.
  • National stakeholder groups, including the International Association of Chiefs of Police, the National Sheriffs Association, the National Association of Counties, the National Association of Attorneys General, the National Legal Aid and Defenders Association, the National Criminal Justice Association, the National Association for Court Management, the National Judicial College and the National Association of Pretrial Services Agencies, held conferences and other educational events that featured presentations on pretrial justice.
  • Throughout the country, regional collaborations among prosecutor, defense, judicial, law enforcement, pretrial services and jail administration representatives met to promote pretrial improvements as part of their criminal justice coordinating committees or as part of a variety of projects, including the National Institute of Corrections’ Evidence Based Decision Making Program and its Transition from Jail to the Community Initiative with the Urban Institute.

Pretrial Justice Institute: The Pretrial Justice Institute is a nonprofit organization that works toward safe, fair and effective pretrial justice by promoting reforms in arrest, bail and diversion decision-making. PJI aims for data-driven and informed policies across juvenile and adult pretrial justice systems to diversify outcomes influenced by demographics. PJI only supports pretrial detention in cases where defendants are a threat to community safety or demonstrate failure to appear in court. For more information, visit



The post Progress Towards Pretrial Policy and Practice Reform Hits Unprecedented Levels appeared first on Pretrial Justice Institute.

Houston land will help poor

Rohan County, Kingston -

Roane County Habitat for Humanity now owns some of the property that Rocky and Leon Houston lost in foreclosure.

On March 12, 2009, the brothers and other members of the Houston family signed a deed of trust on four tracts of land that named Cleveland attorney James Logan as the beneficiary.

The property was used to secure attorney fees and expenses for Logan.

How the New Healthcare Law Can Improve the Criminal Justice System

Pretrial Justice -

This article originally appeared on the Public Welfare Foundation’s Newsroom on February 26, 2014.

Implementation of the Affordable Care Act can expand mental health and drug treatment services for people who are cycling in and out of prisons and jails.

For millions of people cycling through jails and prisons, January 1, 2014 was not just the start of a new year, but perhaps the start of new lives. That’s because they became eligible for health care under the federal Affordable Care Act, which was signed into law in 2010 and is now being implemented.

While prison inmates receive basic health care while they are incarcerated, there is no guarantee of care either for people who are released pending trial or for former prisoners once they are released. Without appropriate care, chronic and other diseases and disorders – including addictions – can deteriorate or re-occur, leaving pre-trial defendants or former prisoners either vulnerable to poor health outcomes or more likely to engage in risky behavior.

But, now people involved at various points in the criminal justice system could be eligible for health care coverage under the ACA, mostly under Medicaid. Although that generally does not include people who are incarcerated, it does include the approximately 10 million people who cycle in and out of the nation’s jails each year (as long as they are not detained), the 650,000 people released from prison each year, and the nearly five million ex-offenders who are on probation or parole at any given time.

Amy L. Solomon, senior advisor to the Assistant Attorney General, Office of Justice Programs at the U.S. Department of Justice, calls this development a “game changer.” Speaking at a conference last October on the impact of the ACA on the criminal justice system, Solomon said that the law “will greatly increase the portion of the justice-involved population eligible for health care coverage. It will ensure that coverage for the newly eligible includes essential health benefits, including mental health and substance abuse benefits at parity. And it will increase the focus on delivering high-quality, integrated care.”

Many criminal justice reform advocates hope ACA can help more people with health issues stay out of the criminal justice system altogether. And they are starting to focus specifically on diverting more people with substance abuse and mental health issues who have been arrested and are awaiting trial into community treatment.

“Up until now,” says Timothy Murray, executive director of the Pretrial Justice Institute, which is a Public Welfare Foundation grantee, “treatment simply has not been affordable for most of those who get arrested.”

Offering more treatment as a diversion option at the pretrial stage could prevent arrestees from becoming more deeply involved in the criminal justice system and help reverse the trend of over-incarceration.

In the past 40 years, the number of people in U.S. prisons and jails has increased to 2.3 million, attributed in no small part to the war on drugs. Managing health care for this large population has been a major concern – as well as a major expense – for federal and state corrections departments. Each year, an estimated $7 billion to $10 billion is spent on health care in correctional facilities.

Under the ACA, Medicaid will broaden its coverage beyond children, pregnant women and disabled adults below certain income levels and will include all non-elderly low-income adults. By 2016, it is expected that nearly six million or one-third of the newly insured Medicaid population of adults between the ages of 19 and 64, will be people who have been booked into jails during the year.

The federal government has agreed to pick up 100 percent of the costs of the expanded Medicaid coverage until the end of 2016, and, so far, half the states are planning to expand. In addition to possible coverage through Medicaid, people who have been arrested but not detained might also qualify for coverage through state health exchanges.

Most significantly, the ACA, together with the federal Mental Health and Addiction Equity Act, will require health insurers to cover mental health and substance abuse treatment at the same or similar levels that they cover medical and surgical services.

Making these services available at the front end of the system is critical to long-term success. A recent report from the National Association of Pretrial Services Agencies notes, “Research studies estimate that 65 percent of all adults in the U.S. corrections system meet medical criteria for drug and/or alcohol use disorders, and treatment participation reduces subsequent criminal activity by 33 to 70 percent, depending on the model.”

Yet, the treatment options have been limited for someone with substance abuse or mental health issues who has been arrested and is released while awaiting trial. Probably fewer than five percent could be sent to a potentially effective intervention program such as drug court.

Murray and other pretrial reform advocates hope that justice systems will now develop routines and protocols to maximize ACA’s potential.

Murray speculates that, “Now, with ACA-funded community resources, the court could order, as a condition of pretrial release, that an individual get a clinical assessment and a referral for the appropriate treatment instead of languishing in jail at public expense and further exacerbating their behavioral health disorders.”

The potential benefits of the ACA to the individual and to society are enormous. “If a pretrial defendant is assessed and placed in a treatment program and does well, the court is likely to acknowledge that at sentencing and order a continuation of that treatment,” says Murray. “In the long term, that is going to be a much more effective way of enhancing community safety.”

As Solomon put it, “If more people get the treatment they need, they are more likely to get out and stay out of the criminal justice system.” They are also, “more likely to be able to work, to support themselves and their families, to pay their taxes and contribute to our communities. That serves our collective interest.”


Related Resources: The Patient Protection And Affordable Care Act And The Pretrial System: A "Front Door" to Health and Safety
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and the Pretrial System - NAPSA 2014.pdf
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Details Author:NAPSA Tags:ACA Category:Diversion Date:February 14, 2014 The Patient Protection And Affordable Care Act And The Pretrial System: A "Front Door" to Health and Safety (Executive Summary)
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and the Pretrial System (Executive Summary) - NAPSA 2014.pdf
303.6 KiB

Details Author:NAPSA Tags:ACA Category:Diversion Date:February 14, 2014

The post How the New Healthcare Law Can Improve the Criminal Justice System appeared first on Pretrial Justice Institute.

American Addiction Centers raises $1.9 million

Nashville Biz Journal -

Brentwood-based American Addiction Centers has raised $1.9 million in an equity offering, according to a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. According to the filing, there were 14 investors. Directors with the company include Darrell Freeman, founder of Zycron, and Jerry Bostelman, founder of Vaco. American Addiction Centers owns and operates behavioral health treatment centers across the country. Less than a year ago, the company raised $6.5 million.

Cherise Fanno Burdeen Testifies Before Maryland Senate Judiciary Committee

Pretrial Justice -

PJI’s Chief Operating Officer, Cherise Fanno Burdeen testified before the Maryland Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday in support of SB 973, one of a number of bills currently being considered by the Maryland Legislature that would improve bail and pretrial laws in the state. Cherise joined an all-star panel including Maryland Public Defender, Paul DeWolfe; Baltimore County State’s Attorney, Scott D. Shellenberger; Baltimore City State’s Attorney, Gregg Bernstein; Sect. of Public Safety & Correctional Services, Gregg L. Hershberger; and Maryland Governor’s Office Executive Director, Tammy Brown. In her testimony, Cherise spoke of the need for changing the Maryland bail system and ways of doing so.



The bail system in Maryland, like nearly every other state in the country, is broken. It fails to do the job we need it to do – that is, detain dangerous defendants and release low risk defendants to accountable and effective supervision pending trial.


If passed, this bill will benefit the state of Maryland in three important ways:


  1. It will increase public safety and confidence in the system;
  2. It will reduce costs associated with the use of secure jails required to provide security, food and medical care to inmates; and
  3. It will avoid the unnecessary human toll the current system inflicts on families and communities, particularly Marylanders of lower economic status.

At this very moment, two out of every three prisoners in U.S. jails are being held not because they have been convicted of a crime, or because they pose an unmanageable danger to society. Rather, two out of every three of those in jail are there simply because they lack the money needed to make bail.


The converse situation is just as troubling: those with money, regardless of where they got it from or the danger they pose to the community or to their victims, are able to purchase their release and walk the streets unfettered.


In some Maryland counties, nearly ninety-percent of the jail population is comprised of pretrial detainees. Fortunately, the bill before your committee, HB 1232/SB 973, will help to fix this growing problem.


For the last 18 months, I have served as the Chair of the Pretrial Release Subcommittee of the Governor’s Task Force to Study the Laws and Policies Relating to the Representation of Indigent Criminal Defendants by OPD. Our subcommittee enjoyed a wide range of expertise from a diverse set of stakeholders – it was comprised of a judge, a prosecutor, the defense bar, jail administrators and representative from a sheriff’s department.


Two of our recommendations, accepted by the full Task Force and sent to the Governor, are reflected in SB 973.


The first is the implementation of a pretrial risk assessment tool that aids those who are making the vital decision to either release or detain someone after they have been arrested for a crime.


The second recommendation reflected in the bill is the call for an accountable and transparent program to supervise defendants post-release, to ensure they appear in court, remain arrest free pending trial, and do not endanger the community or victims.


As part of SB 973, these elements will work to allow those who can be safely managed in the community to retain their housing and employment – the two most important predictors of successful reentry after leaving jail.


To provide you with further context, research recently conducted by the Laura and John Arnold Foundation found that half of the most dangerous individuals arrested today are released pending trial, with no supervision or services simply because they can afford to make bail.


The same research from the Arnold Foundation found that detaining low-risk defendants— often those who cannot afford to pay their bond— increases their likelihood to reoffend in the future. This is the case even after only 24 hours of incarceration. It is for these reasons that Maryland needs an effective, validated pretrial risk assessment tool.


In addition to implementing risk assessment in pretrial decision making, the bill calls for a pretrial supervision program to provide monitoring of defendants released by the court. Pretrial supervision often includes reminding defendants of their upcoming court dates, and of other court orders. This has been proven to lower failure-to-appear rates and is an essential part of the reform effort.


This legislation offers Maryland an historic opportunity to reform the pretrial justice system to the benefit of the state and its residents.


The establishment of a statewide system will allow for all Maryland residents, not just those in its wealthiest county, to experience the same high-quality decision making that results from the use of a validated risk assessment instrument and provide all residents an increased level of public safety through accountable supervision.


Risk-based pretrial decision making and supervision is backed by groups such as the National Association of Counties, the International Association of Chiefs of Police, the Conference of Chief Justices, the National Sheriffs Association, and others serving on the front lines to keep us safe.


Thank you for allowing me to testify today. I am attaching to this written testimony a copy of the report on Maryland done for the Task Force, upon which this bill was based. I congratulate the bill’s author and am happy to answer any questions.

Recommendations from the Pretrial Release Subcommittee of the Maryland Governor’s Task Force on Laws and Policies Relating to Representation of Indigent Criminal Defendants can be found here.

The post Cherise Fanno Burdeen Testifies Before Maryland Senate Judiciary Committee appeared first on Pretrial Justice Institute.

When Release From Jail is Tied to Being Black And Poor

Pretrial Justice -

By Deon Jones    


This week, the Obama Administration, advocacy organizations, state and local governments, and citizens across the United States are celebrating Black Male Achievement Week.  This is a time when stakeholders bring to the forefront the plight of African-American males in the U.S. and devise action plans to solve them. There are many economic, educational, and social injustices that still plague the African-American community today, and here at the Pretrial Justice Institute (PJI), we believe in the iconic words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., that “an injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” Dr. King wrote these words while incarcerated, pretrial, in a Birmingham, Alabama jail in 1963. Since 2007, PJI has advocated diligently to promote fair, safe, and effective pretrial services in jurisdictions all across the country, particularly moving from a system based on monetary status to one that is based on individual risk , an injustice that drastically affects non-violent, poor African-American males across the country.

According to Michelle Alexander, author of The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, “more African American adults are under correctional control today than were enslaved in 1850.” There are close to 12 million arrests each year in the United States, and less than 5 percent of those arrests are for violent crimes. Therefore, most incarcerated individuals, who pose no threat to society and no risk of skipping trial, are stuck in a cell because they cannot afford bail. Research already shows us the extreme racial disparities that exist among national arrest rates so it follows that there are many African-American males sitting behind bars just because they are poor.

A new journal article, “‘Give us Free’: Addressing Racial Disparities in Bail Determinations” written by American University law professor and PJI Board member Cynthia Jones points to research showing that African Americans who are accused of crimes will be given more extreme bail rulings than White Americans accused of the same or similar crimes. This harsh punishment is most likely in the form a large amount of money that they cannot pay. In some cases, African Americans have a higher chance of not being released on bond and are forced to stay locked up until trial. For many African Americans, this injustice is the result of little oversight of bail officials who have almost full discretion when it comes to setting bail. Instead of using an individualized risk-assessment tool, in most cases, it comes down to income and race.

For African Americans, particularly males, being incarcerated for long periods of time on non-violent charges, such as outstanding warrants, petty thefts, and others, can be detrimental in a society where incarceration has harsh side effects. The unemployment rate for African-American men is 11.9 percent, the highest of all racial groups. When people are incarcerated for long periods of time, most will lose their job. Therefore, there is no income, and if they have families, household income also decreases forcing families closer to the poverty line and to rely more heavily on public assistance. In addition, families are broken with the loss of a loved one to the criminal justice system.

For young African-American male teens in the adult system, the effects are even worse. NYC teen Kalief Browder was a high school sophomore walking home from a party when he was arrested on a tip that he robbed someone. He was sent to the notorious Rikers Island. He was held because he couldn’t afford the $10,000 bail. Although he went to court many times, he never had a trial. After 3 years in jail, a judge offered to release him in exchange for a guilty plea. Kalief did not take the deal. He was ultimately released, after 33 months, with no explanation. Not only is it a tragedy what happened to him and the injustice in the court process, but it is a tragedy on what Kalief missed out on – receiving an education, graduating with his peers, going to prom, and other enjoyments of a high school teenager.

The injustice of determining if a person can go home free after being arrested is ruining the lives of many people and is resulting in over-incarceration, jail crowding, and taxpayer dollars being spent by the billions. The answer of if a defendant can go home seems to have come down to two things: income and race. As we celebrate Black Male Achievement Week, we should urge jurisdictions to use data-driven risk assessment tools to assess if a person should be released from pretrial detention or not, instead of just setting arbitrary bail amounts. Too many African-American men are stuck in jail who do not threaten public safety and will show up for trial. As our country continues to evolve, we must continue to fight against barriers that have blocked African-American male achievement for too long so all, even the poorest, can reach their full potential.



The post When Release From Jail is Tied to Being Black And Poor appeared first on Pretrial Justice Institute.

WHTA coat donation

Bedford County News -

Mickey McCormick, president of the Walking Horse Trainer's Association, presented Kyle Turnbow of Shelbyville Central High School with around 50 jackets to be distributed to the local schools. "The...

Roane Health Dept.offers free flu shots

Rohan County, Kingston -

Flu season is here, with seasonal influenza cases now reported across Tennessee.

The Roane County Health Department is working to protect the community by providing free flu vaccinations to area residents until vaccine supplies are depleted.

Patients may walk in to request a flu vaccine any time during regular clinic hours. The department is requesting people arrive no later than 3:30 p.m.

Consignment sale also helps food pantry

Rohan County, Kingston -

Tulle and twinkling sequins covered the walls at the Kingston Community Center last weekend as a charity prom dress sale went on.

The “Say Yes to the Dress” consignment sale was put on by Roane County High School senior Amber Luttrell.

Girls from all over the county donated dresses to be sold during the community event.

These girls are doing more than just getting a little money back; they are also helping Roane County.


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