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To support the country’s burgeoning bail reform movement, the Advancing Pretrial Policy and Research project will pair jurisdictions with experts to help overhaul their pretrial systems


WASHINGTON, D.C. – Arnold Ventures today announced the launch of its most ambitious and comprehensive pretrial reform initiative to date: the Advancing Pretrial Policy and Research (APPR) project. Led by the Center for Effective Public Policy, RTI International, and Stanford University, APPR pairs jurisdictions committed to pretrial justice with researchers and justice experts to undertake a five-year project aimed at reducing wealth- and race-based discrimination and ensuring pretrial incarceration is used only when absolutely necessary to protect public safety.

The five jurisdictions chosen as inaugural Research-Action Sites are Montgomery County, Alabama; Fulton County, Georgia; Catawba County, North Carolina; Pierce County, Washington; and Thurston County, Washington. Together, these jurisdictions represent more than two and a half million people and a diverse mix of large and small, urban and rural areas. In the first phase of the project, researchers will study jurisdictions’ pretrial systems, help stakeholders understand their data, and then design and implement evidence-based reforms tailored to local data and needs.

“We applaud the leaders from the Research-Action Sites who have stepped up and made a strong commitment to racial justice, to protecting individual liberties, and to strengthening public safety,” said Jeremy Travis, Executive Vice President of Criminal Justice at Arnold Ventures. “These sites are at the cutting-edge of one of the most important movements in America—the movement to end wealth- and race-based discrimination in the justice system. The whole country will learn and benefit from their successes.”

READ: Q&A Series with Judges from Counties Selected as Research-Action Sites

Reform efforts in each jurisdiction will be broad and deep, reflecting best practice and years of research from jurisdictions that have successfully transformed their pretrial systems. Sites will consider a range of improvements, including implementing the Public Safety Assessment to support judicial decision making; strengthening presumption of release and due process protections; instituting speedy trial rules; and developing robust pretrial services.

“To transform the pretrial system—not just make incremental change but truly transform it—our efforts must be multi-faceted,” said James Cadogan, Vice President of Criminal Justice at Arnold Ventures. “The APPR project reflects Arnold Ventures’ commitment to reducing unjust pretrial detention through a holistic approach. To that end, we support jurisdictions seeking to adopt a presumption of release, strong due process protections, and robust pretrial services. We must address the deep and far-reaching roots of inequity in our systems if we are going to achieve our vision of greater racial and economic justice.”

Thanks to their collaboration with researchers, jurisdiction leaders will be able to understand how these reforms will affect their pretrial jail populations and broader community before deciding on implementation. Reform champions in the Research-Action Sites—including judges, pretrial services officers, prosecutors, and public defenders—are committed to strong community engagement to ensure all voices and needs are represented in justice system changes.

“We are grateful to Arnold Ventures for their leadership in pretrial justice,” said Madeline Carter, co-director of APPR and a Principal with the Center for Effective Public Policy. “This initiative will bring a rich array of expertise to local justice system professionals and community leaders to support their efforts to improve pretrial outcomes for their communities.”

“We are looking forward to working with the APPR sites, Arnold Ventures, the Center for Effective Public Policy, and other partners to further the evidence-based application of tools to support pretrial decisionmaking and to advance our understanding of the impact of pretrial decisions on local criminal justice systems and the communities they serve,” said Pamela K. Lattimore, Senior Director for Research Development, Division for Applied Justice Research, RTI International.

The APPR project is part of the National Partnership for Pretrial Justice, a diverse group of organizations united around the goal of accelerating pretrial reform across the country. Arnold Ventures announced the National Partnership in March, capitalizing on momentum in the bail reform movement to more deeply connect researchers, practitioners, and advocates working to reduce unjust pretrial detention. National Partnership initiatives focus on judicial decisions, prosecution, public defense, court administration, and more.

In addition to launching the APPR project, Arnold Ventures today released a Request for Proposals for the next five jurisdictions interested in becoming Research-Action Sites. An optional bidders call will be held on September 25, 2019 and applications are due on November 1, 2019.

“We are excited to be part of this innovative initiative which has the potential to advance important pretrial reforms in Montgomery,” said Montgomery County Circuit Court Presiding Judge Johnny Hardwick. “Our work will take place over a five-year period at the end of which we will have a validated risk assessment tool to assist judges in making decisions regarding the detention or release of arrested individuals. The hope is to improve our justice system for our community through the development of tools and strategies that will provide greater information, greater structure, and greater programming to assist our criminal justice system as a whole.”

According to Chief Judge Robert C.I. McBurney of the Atlanta Judicial Circuit, “Implementing pretrial detention reform using best practices, community outreach, and evidence-based risk tools will have a meaningful impact on the trajectory of the tens of thousands of accused individuals whose cases will move through the Atlanta Judicial Circuit in the next few years. Atlanta’s criminal justice leaders are committed to improving the current bail process with common sense release decisions based on risk. This gets those who should be released back with their families and back at work and leaves only those who pose a significant risk to public safety in custody pending trial. We look forward to improving the pretrial justice system and sharing our lessons with similarly situated urban areas across the country.”

“We are excited to be part of this initiative, which has the potential to inform our pretrial processes in Catawba County,” said Nathaniel J. Poovey, Senior Resident Superior Court Judge, Catawba County, North Carolina. “Our work will help us identify evidence-based policies and programs to responsibly and effectively manage our local inmate population.”

“Pierce County and our partners in the justice services community are honored to be one of the research action sites participating in this five-year grant,” said Superior Court Judge Stanley Rumbaugh. “We believe that research-based data gathering and determinations are necessary for the equitable administration of justice. We look forward to implementing best practices in evidence-based pre-trial services while protecting public safety, for the benefit of our everyone in our community.”

“We are excited to be part of this important initiative, which has the potential to advance important pretrial reforms in Thurston County,” said Marianne Clear, Pretrial Services Director for the county. “Ultimately, our goal is to implement the Public Safety Assessment, or PSA. This tool will help make our justice system more equitable and assist our county leadership in the 3 M’s: maximizing public safety, maximizing release and maximizing court appearance.”