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Pretrial Justice

Pretrial risk assessing

We must eliminate unjust pretrial detention and create a justice system where jail is only used when absolutely necessary.

When somebody is arrested, a judge decides if they may be freed before trial or if they should be held in jail. This decision is informed by various system stakeholders, including prosecutors and defense attorneys. Judges must weigh defendants’ fundamental right to liberty against any risk they may pose to public safety or the risk they might flee before their court date. But, frequently, judges do not have objective information to make that assessment. Too often, the issue of risk is not addressed. Judges set a bail amount, and poor people are either locked up or in debt. Others can buy their freedom, and community safety is neglected.

Wealth should not determine whether a defendant is released or jailed before trial. To that end — and in an effort to create a pretrial system that holds fewer people in jail, protects their rights, and enhances public safety — we work with jurisdictions to implement comprehensive reforms to pretrial justice practices. This can include using risk assessment to provide judges with objective data; ensuring protections for due process of law; and advocating for evidence-based practices in prosecutors’ and public defenders’ offices.

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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
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Public Safety Assessment

Judges, attorneys, lawmakers, and community leaders across the United States are working to create a fairer, more efficient criminal justice system for all defendants. Learn what you need to implement a pretrial risk assessment such as the PSA.

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Requests for Proposals