First Appearance


From the states

  • Young adults, ages 18-25, are overrepresented at every stage of the criminal justice system. At the end of January, policymakers from five states gathered in Washington, D.C., to discuss improving outcomes for young adults in the justice system. Learn about how city, county and state governments are working together to address challenges facing this population.
  • Tennessee’s Department of Corrections released a year-end Jail Summary Report showing that over half of the state’s jail beds were occupied in 2018 by pretrial detainees awaiting trial. Bills moving through the legislature aim to reduce this number by creating a presumption of release for certain misdemeanor offenses.
  • The Ohio Supreme Court has created a Task Force to Examine the Ohio Bail System and recommend changes to the system that will ensure public safety and the presumption of innocence. A final report is due in April.
  • The Hawaii State Judiciary released the final report of its Criminal Pretrial Task Force. Convened at request of the Hawaii Legislature, the task force recommendations include expanding diversion, encouraging citations in lieu of arrest, increasing access to counsel and eliminating money bail for low level, non-violent misdemeanors.

the cache

in the news

  • South Dakota is just one of five states that statutorily allow persons in mental health crisis to be held in jail. State lawmakers have convened task forces to review and address the issue of mental health care resources, but advocates, families, law enforcement, and others want the state to do more.
  • Texas lawmakers are taking a hard look at state jails. Created 25 years ago, state jails were intended to keep low-level drug offenders out of prison and offer them more opportunities for rehabilitation. Now called a “complete failure,” offenders released from state jails are re-arrested at a higher rate than those released from prison.
  • A Texas Republican and Democrat have filed identical bills in the state legislature proposing reforms to the state’s pretrial system. The bipartisan effort would direct all counties to adopt pretrial risk assessments and require bail decisions within 48 hours of arrest.
  • Some want New York to "take a cue" from Texas, when it comes to criminal discovery. New York state law currently allows prosecutors to withhold certain evidence until just before trial begins. Critics argue this lack of transparency prolongs jail time for individuals who are presumed innocent. Bills are making their way through the legislature to change this.
  • In 2016, Alaska passed a sweeping criminal justice reform bill—S.B. 91. Since its passage, the bill’s provisions on pretrial reform remained controversial. Now, Gov. Mike Dunleavy (R) is proposing new legislation to rollback S.B. 91, commenting: “The ‘catch and release’ system that has emerged in Alaska must end.”
  • To make a phone call in jail or prison, detainees may be required to give “voice prints”—biometric data used in voice recognition technology. Proponents call it an essential tool for law enforcement, while critics cite privacy concerns, especially when used on the pretrial population.
  • A statewide poll was conducted in Kentucky in December 2018 to gauge support for overhauling the state’s bail system. Of those polled, 76 percent support reform that would allow those charged with a nonviolent, nonsexual offense to be released pretrial on nonmonetary conditions of release.
  • Point/Counterpoint: Does having more cops mean less crime? Two articles look at the data and come to different results: the case for hiring more police officers versus the case to better use officers already on staff.
  • Take a deep dive into jails and health care. Inmates usually do not get to decide when or where to seek medical attention, but those paying do.
  • Take a trip down pretrial memory lane. Jeremy Travis looks back at the history of pretrial reform. While the questions haven’t changed over time, he notes that the energy has. “Today’s reform movement is electric.” Continue the pretrial journey in this article to learn about past reform efforts nationwide.
  • An Ohio reporter goes on mock house arrest for 72 hours. After, she discusses the resulting stigma, worries, and impact on family and friends. In Lucas County, Ohio, electronic monitoring is used about 60 percent of the time in pretrial supervision.
  • Richer or poorer. Roger Stone’s case illustrates how the bail system can work better for the former.
  • Listen in! Pleading guilty to a petty offense or misdemeanor may seem inconsequential. In reality, it can affect a person’s ability to get a job, rent an apartment or secure a bank loan. Listen to Alexandra Natapoff discuss the “stepchild” of the criminal justice system.
  • Watch this! Using state grant funds, San Francisco is “LEADing the Way to Treatment and Recovery.” Rather than taking substance users to jail, police connect individuals to service providers who ask them what they need.  

If you would like to be added to the distribution list for the First Appearance, or know someone who would like to be added, email

Links to external websites and reports are for information purposes only and do not indicate NCSL’s endorsement of the content.

This newsletter was created with support from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation as part of the Safety and Justice Challenge, which seeks to reduce over-incarceration by changing the way America thinks about and uses jails.