Pretrial Justice Institute
2015 Annual Report
2015 was a year of big things: our work with the BJA Smart Pretrial sites, the MacArthur Foundation’s Safety and Justice Challenge, our expanding national role in the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative, new staff and board members, the Pretrial Racial Justice Initiative, and the launches of our 3DaysCount campaign and the University of Pretrial.
You’ll read about all of these important developments in this report.
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But the highlight, really, is that 2015 was our funniest year on record. Oh yes, the funniest. Why? Because it was the year of the John Oliver “Bail” episode! While there is nothing humorous about pretrial injustice for detained individuals and their families, or for victims and communities when dangerous people get out by exploiting the money bond system, the absurdity of our broken system as John Oliver described it on the HBO show Last Week Tonight was very funny. And, to the more than 4 million people who watched the episode and thought about our pretrial system—perhaps for the first time—welcome to the circus!
Humor is a core value at PJI, along with integrity, collaboration, and compassion. We work hard, play hard, and look forward to Mondays and returning from vacations because we miss the energy that comes from being with the team. We are proud not only of the work we do, we’re proud of how we do it.
And that team includes you—our diverse community of funders, professional organizations, advocacy groups, legal scholars, reporters, and state and local policy makers. You have pushed us over the past year to step up our game, and we welcomed the chance to get bigger, better, faster, stronger….
There is still much to be done in supporting pretrial systems that meet our national justice needs and values. This includes starting a major fundraising campaign to see us all the way into the end zone by 2020. I hope you will continue to support us, have fun with us, challenge us, and join in helping us to bring commonsense solutions to longstanding pretrial challenges.
Cherise Fanno Burdeen
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PJI’s work in 2015 went to its next logical step, building on previous years’ efforts to raise awareness about pretrial justice and to build strong stakeholder coalitions. In 2015 we shifted our attention and began taking steps to see large-scale change implemented more rapidly and reliably.
In past years, PJI focused on setting a foundation for pretrial reform, marshaling key resources such as research, messaging, stakeholders networks.
This year’s annual report describes increases and expansion in…
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Still, right now tens, perhaps even hundreds, of thousands of individuals who could be safely released back to their jobs, families, and communities without financial release conditions are behind bars—unconvicted of their current charges. Likewise, there are likely thousands of others who pose a genuine threat to individual and community safety who have bought their way out of jail before trial and are free without any meaningful supervision. We will continue scaling-up our work until we have corrected these injustices and have safer, fairer, and more effective pretrial justice systems.
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In 2015, PJI launched 3DaysCountTM, a national campaign to set a new standard of pretrial justice by bringing commonsense solutions to longstanding pretrial challenges in 20 states by 2020. It is an ambitious project, borne out of the recognition that state statutes, constitutions, and legal rules often limit the extent of city- and county-level reform.
Building on PJI’s broad-based coalition of partners, as embodied primarily in the Pretrial Justice Working Group (PJWG), 3DaysCountTM will support participating states to achieve three publicly-supported goals:
Reduce unnecessary arrests that destabilize families and communities
Replace discriminatory cash bail with practical, risk-based decision-making, and
Enable transparent detention for the small number of defendants who pose a genuine threat to public safety.
3DaysCountTM will follow the example of places like Colorado, Kentucky, New Jersey, Washington, DC, and dozens of other locales where updated state laws encouraged local jurisdictions to reliably implement smarter pretrial justice policies and practices.
The methods we will use include:
At end of 2015, all three Smart Pretrial sites had completed a year-long planning process. Now, in the second year of the initiative, they are implementing legal and evidence-based practices based on their findings.
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The Delaware team, for example, is partnering with the judicial branch’s Access to Justice initiative to update its constitutional and statutory language. The Yakima County, Washington team has implemented a new validated risk assessment tool and decision-making framework. The team from the City and County of Denver is nearing completion of its jail and pretrial data dashboard and is revising its release-or-detention pretrial guidelines.
In the third and final year of the initiative, the Smart Pretrial jurisdictions will focus on sustaining and institutionalizing their safer, fairer, and more effective pretrial practices.
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In 2015 PJI conducted a third round of public opinion polling on pretrial justice issues. The results show public support of commonsense pretrial solutions is higher than ever. These findings confirm what we hear from our partners, colleagues, and friends: Americans believe that their justice systems waste resources and cause harm by arresting too many people for low-level offenses and jailing them for their poverty. Stakeholders and practitioners who join 3DaysCountTM and other reform efforts can feel secure in knowing that voters recognize that current practices unfairly favor those with money, rely on arbitrary decision-making, and actually create more crime and community dysfunction.
The Criminal Justice System Favors the Rich
The Criminal Justice System Treats Everyone Equally
Voters Want 3DaysCountTM SolutionsClick to Download
Pretrial Justice Working Group
PJI’s role in the PJWG goes beyond managing this coalition of over ninety organizations, advocates and stakeholders. Through our continued work building and developing the PJWG we stay connected to our partners who are getting things done in the field. We provide advice, networking opportunities, and education on pretrial issues for working group members engaged in pretrial reform.
One example of the impressive results of the PJWG’s collaborative design is the Pretrial Racial Justice Initiative (PRJI), a subgroup doing crucial work building and expanding a network of stakeholders to address the intersections of race, ethnicity, and bail. In 2016 PJI will take over this work which is essential to fair and just pretrial practice.
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Several other high-profile tragedies—including the deaths of Sandra Bland in Texas and Jamycheal Mitchell in Virginia—in addition to the unrest in Baltimore and the Justice Department’s report about the previous year’s disturbances in Ferguson, Missouri, also served to focus attention on the injustice of money bail.
Having retained the services of a public relations firm early in the year, PJI became a key resource. We were interviewed dozens of times, provided background information for high-profile articles and videos, had opinion pieces published, and even appeared on TV and internet-based programming.
Both the Smart Pretrial Initiative and the launch of the MacArthur Foundation’s Safety and Justice Challenge focused media attention on efforts to fix the problems highlighted by those tragedies. This coverage demonstrated that justice leaders are committed to creating change to make their systems more equitable and efficient.
The most unexpected—and therefore, perhaps, most exciting—development was an episode of Last Week Tonight with John Oliver that focused on bail and pretrial. PJI provided the producers with extensive background information on the nature of the problem, how the system works now, and commonsense reforms. In addition to airing on HBO and HBO’s on-demand platforms, the episode garnered more than four million views on YouTube.
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Over the summer of 2015 PJI ran the #unconvicted social media campaign on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, using photos and stories of unconvicted inmates gathered in Maryland jails. PJI staff and professional photographer David Y. Lee spent time with these incarcerated individuals and listened to their stories of being detained simply for a lack of bail money. Many had already lost jobs and housing and had their families disrupted. Some who maintained that they were innocent of the charges against them spoke of pleading guilty just to get out of jail.
The challenges involved in reforming current pretrial practice are massive. To begin with, each of the fifty states has its own legal structure, rules, and traditions that may be interpreted and expressed differently at the local level. In 2015, PJI expanded its activities into new areas where we could spread the message of pretrial justice and build reciprocal supportive partnerships.
The University of Pretrial
Throughout 2015 PJI was busy designing the University of Pretrial (UP), a one-stop shop where juvenile and criminal justice system practitioners and policymakers will be able to access instructor-led and self-guided training, connect with colleagues from across the country, and engage in social media with the goal of bringing system change at home.
UP offers a revolutionary way to educate and train pretrial leaders to meet the ever-expanding needs of those committed to reforming pretrial justice in America, and around the world. Whether for participants in Smart Pretrial or 3DaysCount, or individual jurisdictions or practitioners who wants to see change, UP will help ensure that the new standard of pretrial justice is, in fact, a standard.
Safety and Justice Challenge
PJI serves as the convener for the MacArthur Foundation’s Safety and Justice Challenge (SJC), which launched in February 2015. PJI’s involvement in the project is a natural fit given SJC’s focus on jails and front-end justice and our expertise in coalition-building and networking. In 2015 PJI managed several large gatherings of site and initiative players and was part of the team that reviewed the twenty sites’ Phase One implementation plans. Each of these plans include some component of pretrial justice reform. As SJC progresses to Phase Two in 2016, PJI will continue to plan and manage the curricula and details for all SJC events.
Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative
In 2016 we will continue to develop this work with the launch of an on-demand community, learning, and assistance platform. This new platform will give members access to innovative training and technical assistance tools, as well as easy access to colleagues and experts throughout the country, using online learning models and technology and social media. In addition to functioning as a “virtual university” where members can get new and updated information on their own time and with positive reinforcement and feedback, PJI will also incorporate a learning community that will complement the existing relationships that sites have with technical assistance providers and other JDAI supports.
PJI’s Board of Directors experienced significant growth in 2015, with the addition of 9 new members. The expansion of PJI’s activities in new fields and endeavors required a similar expansion in the capacities of our board composition. Today’s board of directors maintains its traditional strengths while also representing new areas of expertise that are critical to pretrial reform, such as victim services, racial disparities and a renewed focus on research.
PJI’s revenue in 2015 was $3,276,162. Sources of that revenue appear in the chart below.
John D. and Katherine T. MacArthur Foundation
Bureau of Justice Assistance
Public Welfare Foundation
Annie E. Casey Foundation
General Donations & Other
University of Pretrial
Fiscal Year 2015 Donors
Public Welfare Foundation
California Community Fund
The Honorable Gregory Donat
PJI strives to keep its administrative expenses low and invests heavily in its human capital. This year, as in prior years, general operating support from the Public Welfare Foundation underwrote a significant portion of our management and general expenses.