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Photo by Carlos Osorio/​The Associated Press

New York — The Laura and John Arnold Foundation (LJAF) today announced the release of a 50-state survey of legislation in 2012 affecting key aspects of the pretrial criminal justice system. The report, authored by the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) and funded by a grant from LJAF, represents the first stage of a yearlong project that will culminate in the 2013 release of an interactive, web-based database of statutes and significant pending legislation in all 50 states regarding pretrial justice.

The resources created through this grant will, for the first time, allow lawmakers, criminal justice practitioners, researchers, and the public to easily and quickly gain a comprehensive understanding of pretrial laws and proposed legislation in every state. The reports and database will provide information on laws and legislation regarding important issues, including:

  • pretrial detention, release, and associated conditions;
  • pretrial diversion and services;
  • use of citations in lieu of arrest; and
  • use of risk assessment and evidence in the pretrial system.

The first report by NCSL, posted on their website today, identifies 395 bills and resolutions related to pretrial criminal justice that were acted on in state legislatures from January through September 2012. Of these measures, 115 were enacted or adopted, 198 failed or were vetoed, and 82 were still pending. The majority of these bills addressed eligibility for pretrial release and pretrial services programs. In the first nine months of 2012, pretrial legislation was introduced in 40 states and passed in 33.

The initiative is part of LJAF’s broader strategy to promote lasting, systemic change at the front end of the criminal justice system — that is, the processes running from arrest through sentencing. The Laura and John Arnold Foundation is committed to pursuing research and developing tools to ensure that the front end of the system is as effective as possible at protecting the public, minimizing crime, making wise use of public resources, and administering justice fairly and efficiently,” said Anne Milgram, LJAF Vice President of Criminal Justice. Having a centralized database of key pretrial laws and legislation nationwide will allow jurisdictions to learn from one another, and will help policymakers in each state assess how best to improve their pretrial system.”

Today’s report is the first of four LJAF-funded compilations of pending legislation that NCSL will prepare and publish on its website on a quarterly basis. In addition, as part of the LJAF project, NCSL will complete a summary of existing laws in each state, which will be posted online early next year in an easy-to-use chart format. And in mid-2013, the online database of pending legislation and existing laws will go live on the NCSL site. The LJAF project builds on NCSL’s prior work for the Public Welfare Foundation compiling state-by-state information on bail eligibility, pretrial services, and commercial bail bonds.

As a bipartisan organization that represents legislators and their staff in all 50 states, NCSL is uniquely positioned not only to perform this in-depth research, but also to present and disseminate it in a way that gives it the greatest impact,” said Milgram.

Today’s report can be found at www​.ncsl​.org.