Can local justice systems prevent people who shouldn’t be detained from ending up behind bars? Sometimes all it takes is smarter communications, according to a study of an electronic alert system devised by Durham County authorities in North Carolina—one of six case studies released by the Urban Institute on promising reforms underway around the U.S.
Justice stakeholders in Lucas County, a largely rural county in northwestern Ohio whose seat is Toledo, used a grant from the MacArthur Safety +Justice Challenge to tackle jail overcrowding. They achieved significant reductions of 24 percent in the pretrial population alone.
In an ambitious attempt to test whether its Public Safety Assessment tool can help judges predict which defendants can be safely released before trial, the Laura and John Arnold Foundation has announced a major research and training program to make it available in 200 new jurisdictions. Ten states or counties will be selected to participate in a guided implementation of the program.
In its first year, New Jersey’s historic bail overhaul slashed the number of people charged with minor crimes locked up until trial because they couldn’t post bail by 20 percent. Yet the system is “simply not sustainable” because it relies on court fees rather than the state budget, a report from the New Jersey judiciary says.
If you are released ahead of your trial date, you’re 14 percent less likely to be found guilty, according to an American Economic Review study. Compared to those who can’t make bail and are held in pretrial detention, your economic outlook is better too, researchers concluded in a study of court records in Philadelphia and Miami-Dade counties.
In Philip K. Dick’s “Minority Report,” criminals could be identified before they committed a crime. Computer-generated risk algorithms used by courts to determine whether individuals should be released ahead of trial have brought us a step closer to that world–and our challenge is to use them responsibly, says a George Mason University professor.
New Jersey’s use of an algorithm to advise judges on pretrial release “is what the new vision of American justice looks like,” NBC News reports. Six months into the new practice, New Jersey jails are already starting to empty, and the number of people locked up while awaiting trial has dropped.