First Appearance


From the States

  • NCSL recently released a podcast, Criminal Justice Reform: A Bipartisan Issue. The podcast discusses criminal justice measures passed in Colorado and Mississippi with Colorado Representative Leslie Herod (D) and Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant (R).
  • NCSL recently hosted 16 lawmakers from 13 states in Missoula, Mont., for the Rural Jail Reform in Big Sky Country site visit. Attendees toured the local jail, the Missoula Urban Indian Health Center and the Western Montana Mental Health Center. For a summary of the meeting and resources on what front-end justice reforms look like in small and rural counties visit the new meeting webpage.
  • The Pennsylvania Supreme Court invoked its “King’s Bench” (or extraordinary) jurisdiction to conduct an inquiry into the use of financial conditions of release in Philadelphia’s First Judicial District. The court’s inquiry is limited to allegations of systemic failures of the judicial district to adhere to the Supreme Court’s Rules of Criminal Procedure. Background about the case can be found on the supreme court’s website.
  • Alaska Governor Michael Dunleavy (R) recently signed HB 49 into law rolling back many of the criminal justice reforms put in place by SB 91 (2016). The statewide pretrial services program was retained, but other aspects of the pretrial release system were changed. See the governor’s summary of the legislation here.
  • The Oregon Criminal Justice Commission conducted a study to evaluate the effect of pretrial detention on sentencing outcomes in the state. The study found that, compared to defendants released pretrial, detained defendants were more than twice as likely to be incarcerated as part of their sentence.

The Cache

In the News

  • In Texas, a bipartisan group of state representatives formed the House Criminal Justice Reform Caucus. “The goal [of the caucus] is to help educate colleagues on criminal justice issues and work together to advance reform proposals,” explained Representative Joe Moody (D). The group was formed after several bipartisan proposals on criminal justice reforms failed to pass before the 2019 legislative session ended.
  • As an alternative to pretrial detention, some judges allow a defendant’s pretrial release if they submit to electronic monitoring. Dubbed “Digital Jail” in this article, critics argue this alternative shifts supervision costs from local government to those who can least afford it—defendants.
  •  “It’s location, location, location,” noted Drew Findling, president of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. But he wasn’t referring to real estate. He was remarking on frustration expressed regarding diversion programs, and the lack of consistency in diversion decisions from one county to the next.
  • As part of a plea deal, can a defendant waive the right to benefit from future legislation or court decisions that would reduce his or her sentence? A bill introduced in California would make any such plea bargain “void as against public policy.”
  • In a new study by the Center for Court Innovation (CCI), researchers set out to “reach … policymakers dedicated to reducing the use of pretrial incarceration who are confused or alarmed by the debate over risk assessment and race.” Based on the resulting analysis, rather than abandoning risk assessments altogether, CCI encourages risk assessments be used in context—as part of a larger, layered decision-making framework.
  • As urban pretrial detention populations have declined, the same is not true in rural counties. A shortage of resources—not enough public defenders, limited court times, and lack of funding—is contributing to the issue, especially in small, remote rural counties.
  • Listen in! 70million released a new podcast—Marching Toward Reform in New Orleans—a discussion of the city’s reliance on financial bail, fines, and fees to bring in revenue.
  • Watch! NCSL’s Legislative Summit is right around the corner—Aug. 5-8 in Nashville, Tenn. If you’re not able to join NCSL in the Country Music Capital of the World, you can watch nine livestreaming sessions, including a session on navigating criminal justice reform moderated by CNN political commentator, Van Jones.
  • ICYMI! –A judge denied bail for Jeffrey Epstein—despite the defendant’s offer to put up his $77 million residence and private jet for collateral and pay guards to watch him around the clock.

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    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.