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April 23, 2019

"Justice Denied: The Harmful and Lasting Effects of Pretrial Detention"

The title of this post is the title of this notable new "evidence brief" from the Vera Institute of Justice.  Here is its overview:

The pretrial population — the number of people who are detained while awaiting trial — increased 433 percent between 1970 and 2015.  This growth is in large part due to the increased use of monetary bail.  But pretrial detention has far-reaching negative consequences.  This evidence brief presents information on the way that pretrial detention is currently used and summarizes research on its impacts.  These studies call into question whether pretrial detention improves court appearance rates, suggests that people who are detained are more likely to be convicted and to receive harsher sentences, and indicate that even short periods of detention may make people more likely to become involved with the criminal justice system again in the future.  The brief concludes by highlighting strategies that some jurisdictions have employed to reduce the use of monetary bail and increase pretrial release.

April 23, 2019 at 09:57 AM | Permalink


I have to wonder about correlation vs. causation. One reason people go to pretrial detention is that a judge decides they are a risk. If a judge looks at "similarly situated" defendants A and B, and decides that A should go to jail while B should be granted bail, perhaps the judge has seen a problem with A that she does not see with B. If A then has a worse outcome, this outcome might reflect the preexisting problem, not the judge's choice.

Obviously one can't do a randomized, blind study here. Does an appropriate statistical tool even exist?

Posted by: William Jockusch | Apr 23, 2019 10:18:04 PM

Can we expect more inmate riots in protest against preventive detention the way we had during the 1969-1970 period when New York City-based jails like the Tombs and Ryker's Island blew up?

Posted by: Bill Delzell | Apr 24, 2019 9:22:53 AM

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