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New York — Laura and John Arnold Foundation (LJAF) today announced the release of the first-ever comprehensive interactive Web database of laws governing key issues in pretrial criminal justice in all 50 states. This database, which is searchable by both subject and state, provides users with easy-to-understand summaries of statutes and constitutional provisions governing important pretrial topics including release and detention, diversion, risk assessments, conditions of release, and the use of citations in lieu of arrest.

The interactive online database represents the culmination of a yearlong collaboration between LJAF and the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL). The resource is available on NCSL’s website.

“We believe there is a tremendous opportunity to reduce crime and improve the efficiency of taxpayer dollars by focusing on the front end of the system, the period between arrest and sentencing,” LJAF Vice President of Criminal Justice Anne Milgram said. “Jurisdictions that take advantage of this new resource can identify ways to both better protect the public and realize significant cost savings.” Among the topics covered in this interactive resource are:

  • Laws mandating or recommending the use of risk assessments in making pretrial release/detention decisions;
  • Laws governing which defendants are eligible for pretrial release and which may be detained;
  • Laws providing for alternatives to traditional criminal justice proceedings for certain people charged with criminal offenses, a practice known as diversion;
  • Laws establishing conditions that may be set for defendants released before trial; and
  • Laws governing when law enforcement may issue citations (tickets requiring an appearance in court and/or payment of a fine) for low-level criminal violations, rather than arresting an offender.

The database will also include information on bail eligibility, pretrial services, and commercial bail bonding practices — work that was funded by the Public Welfare Foundation.

“With the launch of this database, it will no longer be a challenge for legislators and policy-makers to understand the laws that impact pretrial criminal justice in individual states, or on the national level,” Milgram said. “This resource for the first time provides a comprehensive guide to current laws affecting these critical issues and will allow lawmakers and practitioners to learn from one another, identify potential reforms, and spread best practices.”

LJAF and NCSL previously published three reports on pretrial legislation introduced or enacted over the past year. LJAF also recently announced that, over the coming year, it will partner with NCSL so that NCSL can update and augment its existing database of laws governing the use of DNA in criminal proceedings to include information on statutes pertaining to a wide variety of forensic science issues. That project is expected to be complete in March 2014.