Earlier this month, 18 leaders from across the nation gathered at our inaugural National Partnership for Pretrial Justice (NPPJ) convening — a space for judges, prosecutors, defenders, and advocates to grapple with the complexities of advancing pretrial policies within diverse states.
While we anchored the convening around presentations from New Jersey leaders on their successful reform efforts, the out-of-state leaders came eager to engage their colleagues on the practical lessons and problem-solving required to win system-wide change. Reform advocates from eight states asked probing questions of their peers and took copious notes on valuable considerations for pretrial efforts happening back home. A new evaluation by MDRC provided objective insight about the outcomes of the New Jersey Criminal Justice Reform Act.
New Jersey leaders — including the state’s Chief Justice, Chief Administrative Judge, Chief Public Defender, and the NJ ACLU’s Senior Supervising Attorney — did an excellent job modeling the importance of building culture within local systems and the transparency and persistence required to achieve change. They did not hesitate to portray this critical work as long, laborious, and fraught with good and bad days. They made great efforts to convey that all jurisdictions are different, that not all states share the circumstances of New Jersey. Yet they shared countless transferrable lessons adaptable for local needs, such as the importance of leadership buy-in, use of data, and stakeholder education to spread a consistent message about both the problem and the policy change required.
“In the field of pretrial reform, the years of research and advocacy have actually worked,” said Arnold Ventures Vice President of Criminal Justice James Cadogan. “Now we face the difficult task of implementing the broad principles of reform and delivering on the promise of this evolution in public policy.”
Looking ahead, the Arnold Ventures pretrial team will continue to support the work of different states as they seek to advance pretrial justice. This is the first in a series implementation and policy conversations we will hold in order to build relationships and elevate reform learnings in the pursuit of pretrial justice. We know that one size does not fit all given the geographic, regional and demographic diversity of our country. Ultimately, jurisdictions are seeking their own versions of pretrial policy reform. Through the National Partnership, we will try to meet learning needs for a diversity of states — each on its own unique journey to creating fairer and more equitable pretrial practices.