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Bail Reform

Defendant files

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. But, frequently, judges do not have objective information to make that assessment. Instead, they simply set a bail amount. The result is that community safety comes second to the question of who has money: in this system, the wealthy can buy their freedom, but poor people are either forced into debt or locked up. Wealth should not determine whether a defendant is released or jailed before trial.

Through research, data, and policy support, we empower court systems and stakeholders to make objective decisions and release more people. To that end — and in an effort to create a pretrial system that protects constitutional rights and enhances public safety — we work with states and counties to implement comprehensive reforms to pretrial justice practices. This can include using risk assessment to provide judges with better data; ensuring protections for due process of law, and advocating for evidence-based practices that reduce inequities and improve court appearance, public health, and public safety.

To advance pretrial justice across the country, we developed the National Partnership for Pretrial Justice, a community of practice that connects and elevates diverse expertise and approaches in pretrial reform, including bail reform. National Partnership members share a commitment to protecting individuals’ constitutional rights, improving community safety, and reducing the cost burden on taxpayers who foot the bill for unjust pretrial detention.

Image: (Dake Kang/The Associated Press)

Number of cases nationwide from which data was drawn for the PSA
Number of jurisdictions across the U.S. that Arnold Ventures has partnered with to implement the PSA
Decrease in New Jersey’s pretrial jail population since pretrial reform, including the PSA, was implemented
Proportion of judges surveyed who say the PSA informs their release decisions

How to Get Started

Deciding to adopt a pretrial risk assessment such as the PSA represents an important step in building a more effective and efficient pretrial system. Learn what you need to implement the PSA.

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Requests for Proposals