NCSL Pretrial Release Quarterly Newsletter

From the States

  • The NCSL Legislative Summit is here! Check the Law and Criminal Justice Agenda for exciting sessions covering issues including behavioral health, victims’ rights, correctional health care and more! Can’t make it to Summit? We’re streaming seven sessions online here, including sessions  on opioids, marijuana and the Supreme Court Update!
  • NCSL recently released an updated resource on Pretrial Release Violations and Bail Forfeiture laws. Click here to explore new information using our interactive 50 state maps and more.
  • The Georgia Council on Criminal Justice Reform—Georgia’s interbranch, bipartisan council that was authorized in 2013—has issued recommendations addressing misdemeanor bail that include providing expedited financial ability-to-pay determinations, increasing use of arrest by citation, individualizing bail determinations, and increasing the use of release on nonmonetary conditions.
  • The Kansas Legislative Division of Post Audit released a report on: “Community Mental Health: Evaluating Mental Health Services in Local Jails.” The report recommends an integrated statewide plan to provide consistent collaboration between jails and community mental health providers.
  • The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld New Jersey’s 2014 risk-based pretrial legislation and constitutional reform in a recent opinion finding that defendants do not have a ”constitutional right to deposit money or obtain a corporate surety bond … as an equal alternative to non-monetary conditions of pretrial release.”
  • Ohio’s Ad Hoc Committee on Bail and Pretrial Services released an addendum to its 2017 report addressing the bail system. The addendum highlights the need for “robust data collection to … achiev[e] meaningful reform efforts,” and suggests that “[d]ata collection is the only way to assess the effectiveness of bail practices and pretrial services.”

The Cache

In the News

  • On June 26, the National Center for State Courts (NCSC) and Measures for Justice (MFJ) announced the National Court Open Data Standards Project, a new partnership that will facilitate and accelerate access to county-level court data. This announcement comes shortly after Florida enacted SB 1392, which requires every county to collect and report uniform data to the state.
  • Montana bounty hunters faced felony charges, after the six-person team broke down a door and handcuffed a defendant who owed $115 to a bondsman. The bondsmen said they acted within their authority. Judge “Dusty” Deschamps dismissed charges and called on the Legislature to remedy the issue currently controlled by a 150-year-old U.S. Supreme Court case.
  • Local jurisdictions are looking for ways to reduce unnecessary pretrial detention. Jeremy Travis, the Laura and John Arnold Foundation’s new executive vice president of criminal justice, shares his thoughts on why cash bail criminalizes poverty in America.
  • Pima County, Ariz.—a Safety and Justice Challenge site—released a video highlighting the work of its 33-member Community Collaborative. The collaborative seeks to reduce the jail population and its membership strategically includes formerly incarcerated individuals, victim advocates, tribal members and clergy.
  • A defendant was intercepted on his way to court by his bondsman who took him to jail instead. It was not because he missed court or committed a new crime, but because he was behind on payments. Judge Lee V. Coffee (Memphis, Tenn.) cautions that such tactics result in pressure that “actually encourage[s] people to go out and commit more crimes.”
  • Cops are forced to act as “quasi-paramedics” because of the opioid epidemic. Arthur Rizer and Jonathan Haggerty examine the “medicalization of the police.”
  • The Clark County jail regularly houses inmates at double its capacity, and “the high cost of justice” is placing this Washington county in the spotlight to consider pretrial reforms. As the county grapples with space limitations, it’s carefully watching reform efforts taking place other counties and eagerly awaiting their data.    
  • Yakima County, Wash., is using the Sequential Intercept Model to bolster its continuum of care for people with serious mental illness. The county has decreased its rates of pretrial detention without sacrificing public safety or court appearance.
  • New Mexico courts will begin carrying out new rules governing pretrial release and detention following a constitutional amendment.  Proponents say these reforms both ensure public safety and protect individual rights, but opponents worry the new rules place public safety in jeopardy.
  • Last year, seven Democrats ran for the position of top city prosecutor in Philadelphia. Larry Krasner won that battle, becoming the new district attorney. Now in his new role, Krasner announced his office will no longer seek financial conditions of release when charging defendants with 25 different crimes, including prostitution, retail theft, and trespassing. 
  • Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds (R) line-item vetoed a provision in the Judiciary bill that would have immediately ended a Public Safety Assessment pilot program, and instead instructed the pilot to continue until the end of the year. In her veto letter, she urged lawmakers to review data once the pilot has been analyzed and determine its efficacy at that time.
  • In New Hampshire, the president of the Association of Police Chiefs is voicing his concerns about bail reform.  The chief questions the data behind pretrial risk assessments and criticizes the lack of attention paid to victims in these reform efforts. In his op-ed, he also argues: “The only way bail reform will work is if fair and consistent pretrial services are available statewide. That won’t be cheap.”
  • Numerous initiatives have led to New Orleans jail population being cut in half, including an increase in the number of defendants released on recognizance and allowing reconsideration of the initial bail amount. City officials want to keep the momentum going when the new mayor takes office.
  • Pretrial diversion programs in Louisiana are under intense scrutiny as several parishes’ records show significant increases in revenue going to prosecutors’ offices. The controversy has led to an investigation by the state Legislative Auditor’s office.
  • Technology giant Google is teaming up with Koch Industries on bail reform efforts. The pair co-sponsored an event to push for changes to bail law, and Google announced its decision to ban bail bond advertisements.
  • As the bail reform movement grows, so do questions about sustained funding for these efforts. Could pay-for-success demonstration projects be used as stepping stones to larger reforms?
  • Want to learn more? The Pretrial Justice Institute announced three new training opportunities: Pretrial Impact: Outcome-Based Implementation; Fundamentals of Pretrial Justice; and Pretrial Justice Bootcamp.



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.