Panel: Innovation in the Criminal Justice System: Policy Lessons and Impacts of Pretrial Reforms
(Crime, Justice, and Drugs)

Saturday, November 10, 2018: 1:30 PM-3:00 PM
8228 - Lobby Level (Marriott Wardman Park)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Panel Chairs:  Bret Barden, MDRC
Discussants:  Sue Ferrere, Pretrial Justice Institute

Across the United States, criminal justice policymakers, practitioners, and advocates have raised concerns about the large number of people who are detained in local jails while waiting for resolution of their criminal charges. While some defendants are held because they are deemed likely to flee or commit additional crimes if released, many others do not pose a significant risk and are held because they cannot afford to pay the bail amount set by a judge. Incarcerating these relatively low-risk defendants is costly to taxpayers and disrupts the lives of defendants and their families, many of whom have low incomes and face other challenges. To address this situation, some jurisdictions are experimenting with new approaches to handling criminal cases pretrial, with the overarching goal of reducing unnecessary incarceration while maintaining public safety.

The panel will include three presentations. The first paper on this panel will discuss early results from a study of criminal justice system reforms that include a pretrial risk assessment tool, the Public Safety Assessment (PSA). The tool uses data on a defendant’s history with the justice system and the current offense, to predict the likelihood that he or she will show up to hearings or be arrested for a new crime if released.  The PSA aims to help judges make more informed, less subjective decisions about pretrial detention and is often implemented in conjunction with other pretrial system reforms.  It is currently used in nearly 40 jurisdictions across the nation. The first presentation will describe the impacts of the PSA and related pretrial justice system reforms in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina. Both of these presentations will assess the impact of the reforms on key outcomes such as arrests, days incarcerated, case dispositions, and court appearance rates, using a rigorous quasi-experimental research design.

The second presentation will discuss findings from the National Governor’s Association criminal justice reform initiative, which is taking place in five jurisdictions in the U.S. The presentation will describe the challenges and lessons learned from their work on pretrial reform efforts in Oregon and Vermont. Finally, using data from New Orleans, Louisiana, the third paper will present a study by the Vera Institute of Justice describing how bail and court fees work. It will illustrate the costs to taxpayers and defendants in both monetary terms and incarceration days.

The panel discussant will be Sue Ferrere, Technical Assistance Manger at the Pretrial Justice Institute, a national organization devoted to advancing fair and effective pretrial justice practices.

See more of: Crime, Justice, and Drugs
See more of: Panel