NCSL Pretrial Quarterly Newsletter

From the States

  • NCSL has partnered with the Laura and John Arnold Foundation to track significant state pretrial policy legislation. In January, NCSL began tracking pending pretrial legislation in all 50 states. In addition, state legislative enactments from 2017 are now available in NSCL’s pretrial policy enactment database
  • NCSL recently updated its 50-state chart on policies related to Citation in Lieu of Arrest. The chart focuses on general statutory authority provided to law enforcement to issue citations for criminal and traffic offenses.
  • In December 2017, the Illinois Supreme Court announced the formation of a Pretrial Practices Commission. The commissioner “will conduct a comprehensive review of the Illinois pretrial detention system and will make recommendations for change.”
  • New York Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) released his 2018 Criminal Justice Reform Package, which includes “reshaping bail and pretrial detention.” The governor proposes to: Eliminate monetary bail for people facing misdemeanor and non-violent felony charges, and for cases involving violent felony charges, require an individualized judicial review of the case and the defendant’s personal and financial circumstances. 
  • Delaware Governor John Carney (D) signed a pretrial reform bill in the first month of 2018. The stated goals of the law (effective Jan. 1, 2019) are to modernize the pretrial process, reduce reliance on monetary conditions, improve the efficiency and outcome for the criminal justice system, and ensure the safety of the community.

The Cache

In the News

  • Voters in Ohio approved a change to their state constitution addressing the rights of victim’s in criminal cases. The new constitutional language gives victims a list of specified rights including some that affect pretrial proceedings, such as the right to be notified of all proceedings upon request, the right to be heard at any public proceeding involving release, and the right to be notified of release.
  • John Legend joined the Safety and Justice Challenge (MacArthur Foundation) to discuss how to end the cycle of incarceration by beginning change in jails, as part of his campaign “Free America.”
  • Before granting a fee waiver to a criminal defendant, a new law passed in North Carolina requires judges to give 15 days’ notice to all agencies affected by the proposed waiver. View a transcript of a discussion on the law between NPR and the Marshall Project. The new statutory language can be found in section 18B.6(a) of Senate Bill 257.
  • A recent study examined a new pretrial release program in Yakima County, Wash. The new program allows low-risk offenders to be released from custody pending trial—subject to varying levels of court-mandated supervision based on the nature of the crime and risk of committing a new crime or not appearing in court. The study tracked defendants arrested before and after the program was implemented in February 2016, and found no significant increase in crime.
  • The Bronx Freedom Fund charity announced its new nationwide effort to post bail for indigent defendants across the country. The Bail Project plans to open offices in three dozen cities over the next five years.
  • Three Texas cities established the Behavioral Intervention Unit seeking a better integration between police and mental health clinicians. The unit deploys patrol teams of cops and clinicians to assist the mentally ill before there’s a crisis.
  • The final stage of the multiyear rollout of Senate Bill 91 (2016)—Alaska’s criminal justice reform bill—has begun. In January, Alaska began using a computer algorithm to help set bail. The new risk assessment program analyzes a defendant's risk of skipping a court date or being arrested for a new crime.


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.