Dear NPPJ partners,
Here’s a look back on the stories we brought you in January and February.
QUOTE OF THE MONTH
“I don’t like using the term bail reform. What I like saying is constitutional bail.”
– Darrell Jordan, Harris County Judge Criminal Court No. 16
It’s been two years since New York passed historic bail reform laws that reduce the state’s reliance on wealth-based detention, allowing more people — specifically those charged with misdemeanors and non-violent felonies — to return home rather than sit in jail. Despite political controversy and misleading media coverage, those reforms have largely been successful, said Jullian Harris-Calvin, the director of the Greater Justice New York program for the Vera Institute of Justice.
“When the reforms went into effect in January 2020, crime rates continued to plummet and arrest rates continued to go down. Our jail populations across the state were down by 40%,” Harris-Calvin said. “In New York City, a place where Rikers Island held 20,000 people in the ‘90s, the jail population went to the lowest we’ve seen — down to about 3,800 people. That 30-year comparison point is incredible.”
There was a time in recent years if you had asked anyone involved with New York City’s criminal legal system how many people were on pretrial release, you couldn’t get an answer. That’s changed, however, with the release of the Pretrial Release Dashboard, an interactive database built in partnership with the New York City Criminal Justice Agency and Luminosity, Inc.
“For the first time, New York City can paint a complete picture of its entire pretrial population,” said Dr. Marie VanNostrand, the founder and director of data analytics for Luminosity, Inc.
Darrell Jordan, who presides over Harris County’s Criminal Court No. 16, wanted to reform the county’s bail system that for decades relied on unconstitutional wealth-based detention. Jordan, a Democrat, testified in federal court against that system and later helped write new bail policies that created uniform rules across the county’s misdemeanor courts. [Those policies became the foundation for an historic settlement surrounding the county’s bail practices.]
“Why is bail only a safety issue when it comes to poor people? Why is it that a person with money with the exact same profile — I don’t care if it’s murder, armed robbery, or stealing bubblegum — why is it that if you have money to pay your bail amount that you are safe and a better person?” Jordan asks.
A lifelong New Yorker, Ezekiel Edwards has spent his career trying to bring humanity into an unacceptably large and often unjust criminal legal system.
“We have to prioritize making sure that the hard-fought reforms that took place over many years, particularly of policing and pretrial justice, are protected, and that we continue to lay the ground for building on those positive changes and creating other reforms,” Edwards said.
NPPJ PARTNER SPOTLIGHT
Advancing Pretrial Policy and Research (APPR), a project of Arnold Ventures’ National Partnership for Pretrial Justice (NPPJ), invites our NPPJ colleagues to join the APPR Community. This online forum connects hundreds of pretrial practitioners, judges and other legal professionals, researchers, and advocates from across the country. They share resources and experiences, ask questions, and seek guidance from each other and APPR’s network of pretrial experts.
The Community provides researchers with access to potential partners and participants for studies, and its membership of engaged, informed professionals makes it a great place to post publications, share emerging findings, and influence practices in the field.
To join the APPR Community, register here.
FROM THE ARCHIVES
Stephen Hanlon has made fighting for public defenders his life’s work. In the past decade, he’s conducted state-by-state studies analyzing their public defense systems, all with the intent to create a more equitable and fair system.
“If an obstetrician had five times as much work as they could handle competently, terrible things would happen,” Hanlon said. “If a public defender has five times as much work as they could handle competently, terrible things would happen.”
As always, you can read the full archive of NPPJ stories here.
The National Partnership for Pretrial Justice