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In April 2018, the Laura and John Arnold Foundation released two Requests for Proposals (RFPs) focused on the overarching goals of reducing unnecessary pretrial detention, promoting racial justice, and increasing equity, fairness, and accountability at the front end of the criminal justice system.

The first RFP seeks a National Provider that will work in partnership with LJAF to provide access to the Public Safety Assessment (PSA) in a thoughtful and comprehensive manner. Jurisdictions will be able to learn about the PSA as well as have all of the guides and materials to fully implement the risk assessment. The National Provider’s role will also include providing technical assistance in up to 200 sites, and more intensive training and technical assistance in 10 diverse research sites.

The second RFP lays out LJAF’s pretrial justice research objectives and seeks researchers to help undertake this work. The research agenda will examine the implementation and validation of the PSA as well as evaluate the PSA algorithm using a variety of sophisticated statistical methods to determine if improvements should be made to the existing PSA. This research will be conducted in the 10 research sites and will require extensive collaboration with the National Provider. This parallel and dual approach of technical assistance and pretrial risk assessment research has yet to be undertaken in the field. However, LJAF believes there is a great deal of knowledge to be gained by such an effort in terms of understanding implementation, judicial decision making, system impact, and PSA performance. Beyond this, the RFP seeks to address research questions about developing and implementing specific offense risk assessments during the pretrial stage, such as assessments that predict the likelihood of a domestic violence, sex crimes, or DUI arrest during the pretrial period. Finally, LJAF hopes to answer questions about the impact of pretrial detention on individuals and systems. Results from this research will be broadly disseminated by LJAF and the National Provider to ensure communities receive the most up-to-date evidence as they move forward with pretrial reform in their jurisdictions.

To do this research well, and to offer greater transparency and objectivity, LJAF has brought together a unique group of experts, consisting of policy makers, practitioners, and researchers from varied disciplines to participate in the Pretrial Research Advisory Board. The Board will provide external guidance on LJAF’s pretrial research agenda, review proposals, and review research as it rolls in. One of the Board’s primary objectives is to objectively analyze research proposals and offer recommendations on how those proposals can be improved and what projects should be considered for funding. LJAF is grateful to these seven individuals for their commitment to serve on the Pretrial Research Advisory Board and for sharing our goals to improve the pretrial justice system.

Pretrial Research Advisory Board members include:

Ronald Adrine, Retired Judge, Cleveland Municipal Court

Judge Ron Adrine served on the bench of the Cleveland Municipal Court for 36 years. During his time there, he took a leading role in the debate on bail reform. As the Administrative and Presiding Judge of his court, he gained the unanimous approval of his colleagues to amend the court’s local rules in order to eliminate the unnecessary incarceration of low-risk, lower-income people. As Presiding Judge, he oversaw the implementation of the Laura and John Arnold Foundation’s Public Safety Assessment in his jurisdiction. Under Judge Adrine’s leadership, the Court also expanded a series of effective alternatives to incarceration. During his time on the bench, Judge Adrine chaired the Ohio Commission on Racial Fairness and served on the Ohio Supreme Court’s Criminal Sentencing Commission Ad Hoc Committee on Bail and Pretrial Services. He also served on the Board of Directors of the National Center for State Courts (2016-2017) and separately served on the Center’s National Task Force on Fines, Fees and Bail.

Alexandra Chouldechova, Assistant Professor, Carnegie Mellon University

Dr. Chouldechova is an Assistant Professor of Statistics and Public Policy at Carnegie Mellon University’s Heinz College. Since receiving her Ph.D. in Statistics from Stanford, Chouldechova’s research has centered on fairness in predictive modeling. Some of her recent research topics have included the circumstances surrounding disparate impact, quantifications of fairness, and the role of black-box predictors for potential bias. Her work in this area recently received the best paper award for technical and interdisciplinary contribution at the 2018 Conference on Fairness, Accountability and Transparency (FAT*).

Cathy O’Neil, Founder, O’Neil Risk Consulting & Algorithmic Auditing

Dr. Cathy O’Neil is a mathematician, the founder of, an influential writer on data science, and a thought leader on the costs associated with algorithms. She wrote Doing Data Science in 2013 and launched the Lede Program in Data Journalism at Columbia in 2014. In 2016, she described the threat big data analytics poses to equality and democracy in her book, Weapons of Math Destruction, which was longlisted for the 2016 National Book Award. Dr. O’Neil is a regular contributor to Bloomberg View, and recently founded the O’Neil Risk Consulting & Algorithmic Auditing (ORCAA).

Jim Sawyer, Executive Director, National Association of Pretrial Services Agencies

Jim Sawyer is the Executive Director of the National Association of Pretrial Services Agencies (NAPSA) and leads NAPSA’s work to develop and maintain professional standards, disseminate educational programs, and engage partners at the federal, state, and local level to ensure proper implementation of pretrial services. He brings managerial and strategic planning experience from his time as Vice President of Strategic Partnerships and Client Relations for Security Capital Advisors, LLC. and his eight years at the National Association of Counties. Sawyer works closely with a broad coalition of academic partners, providers, and governments to develop frameworks for justice administration and the use of pretrial risk assessments.

Ilya Shpitser, Assistant Professor, Johns Hopkins University

Dr. Ilya Shpitser is the John C. Malone Assistant Professor at Johns Hopkins University. He received his PhD from UCLA in 2008, under the supervision of Judea Pearl. From 2008 to 2012, he was a Research Associate in the causal inference group at the Harvard School of Public Health. From 2013 to 2015, he was a Lecturer (Assistant Professor) of Statistics at the University of Southampton. In 2017, he received the Causality in Statistics Education prize from the American Statistical Association. His research includes all areas of causal inference and missing data, particularly using graphical models, and teasing out causation from association in observational medical data. His recent work has focused on pretrial algorithms and predictive bias, including work on the COMPAS data.

Jennifer Skeem, Associate Dean of Research & Mack Distinguished Professor, University of California, Berkeley

Dr. Jennifer L. Skeem is the Mack Distinguished Professor of Social Welfare and a Professor of Public Policy at the University of California, Berkeley. She is a clinical psychologist who writes and teaches about the intersection between behavioral science and the justice system. Her research is designed to inform legal decision-making about people with emotional and behavioral problems. Specific topics include improving outcomes for justice-involved people with mental illness, understanding psychopathy, and promoting prosocial behavior among juveniles at risk for violence. Her recent work addresses the use of risk assessment to inform criminal sentencing—including how this practice may affect racial and economic disparities in imprisonment. Professor Skeem has authored over 100 articles and edited two books. Skeem is past President of the American Psychology-Law Society and has served on advisory boards for the Council of State Governments Justice Center, U.S. Administrative Office of the Courts, and U.S. Sentencing Commission to inform policy development and improve understanding of risk assessment and risk reduction.

Sandra Susan Smith, Associate Professor, University of California, Berkeley

Dr. Sandra Susan Smith is Professor and Chair of the Department of Sociology at the University of California-Berkeley. Her research interests include urban poverty, joblessness, race and ethnicity, social networks and social capital, and trust. She has recently expanded her research to include criminal justice issues focused on front-end case processing and the influence of pretrial detention and diversion on justice-involved individuals’ future criminal justice involvement. Smith is currently on the advisory board of the Y Combinator Research’s Basic Income Project and the Misdemeanor Justice Project. She was a member of Harvard University’s Executive Session on Community Corrections; Interim Director of UC Berkeley’s Institute for Research on Labor and Employment; and chair of the Inequality, Poverty, and Mobility Section of the American Sociological Association (ASA). She also served as a council member for the American Sociological Association (ASA), Deputy Editor and editorial board member of the American Sociological Review and the American Journal of Sociology, respectively.