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Pretrial Justice

Pretrial risk assessing

We must reform every aspect of the pretrial system—from policing to bail; prosecution to public defense—to ensure that every person who has contact with the justice system is afforded equal treatment under the law. We support policies that decarcerate, protect individuals’ constitutional rights, advance community safety, and promote racial justice.

On any given day, there are more than 730,000 people sitting in jails across America. Two-thirds have not been convicted of a crime and are trapped in jail simply because they can’t afford bail. The recent—and massive—surge in America’s pretrial jail populations has multiple roots: law enforcement agencies that arrest more people for minor offenses and over-police communities of color; prosecutors’ offices that seek harsh punishments and don’t collect data on the impact of those practices on families and communities; public defenders that are so overburdened they can’t possibly offer clients the zealous representation guaranteed in the Constitution; and judges who have little information with which to make life-altering decisions, so fall back on money bail to decide who gets released and who gets detained.

We work directly with courts, judges, prosecutors, and public defenders to implement and evaluate transformative new practices in pretrial justice. We have invested in a wide array of reforms, including robust pretrial support services to improve court appearance rates; data collection to increase transparency and accountability in prosecutors’ offices; and evidence-based workload limits for public defenders.

To accelerate this research, learning, and policy development, Arnold Ventures has established the National Partnership for Pretrial Justice—a grant-supported community of researchers, technical assistance providers, policy experts, and advocates—focused on eliminating unjust pretrial detention.

Image: Stephanie Pope-Earley sorts through defendant files scored with risk-assessment software for municipal court Judge Jimmy Jackson Jr. on the first day of the software’s use in Cleveland in August 2017. (Dake Kang/The Associated Press)

465K
Number of people jailed before trial, many because they can’t afford bail
$14B
Amount spent every year to jail people who haven’t been convicted
35%
Amount more in bail African-American men pay compared to white men charged with the same crime
47%
Proportion of prosecutors’ offices that collect data on pretrial decision-making
Pretrial Partnership

It's time to reform our pretrial system

The National Partnership for Pretrial Justice is a community of research, technical assistance, policy, and advocacy organizations working to advance pretrial justice nationally and in more than 35 states across the country.

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Requests for Proposals