New York — Laura and John Arnold Foundation (LJAF) today announced the release of the first-ever comprehensive interactive Web database of laws governing key issues in pretrial criminal justice in all 50 states. This database, which is searchable by both subject and state, provides users with easy-to-understand summaries of statutes and constitutional provisions governing important pretrial topics including release and detention, diversion, risk assessments, conditions of release, and the use of citations in lieu of arrest.

The interactive online database represents the culmination of a yearlong collaboration between LJAF and the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL). The resource is available on NCSL’s website.

“We believe there is a tremendous opportunity to reduce crime and improve the efficiency of taxpayer dollars by focusing on the front end of the system, the period between arrest and sentencing,” LJAF Vice President of Criminal Justice Anne Milgram said. “Jurisdictions that take advantage of this new resource can identify ways to both better protect the public and realize significant cost savings.”Among the topics covered in this interactive resource are:

  • Laws mandating or recommending the use of risk assessments in making pretrial release/detention decisions.
  • Laws governing which defendants are eligible for pretrial release and which may be detained.
  • Laws providing for alternatives to traditional criminal justice proceedings for certain people charged with criminal offenses, a practice known as diversion.
  • Laws establishing conditions that may be set for defendants released before trial.
  • Laws governing when law enforcement may issue citations (tickets requiring an appearance in court and/or payment of a fine) for low-level criminal violations, rather than arresting an offender.

The database will also include information on bail eligibility, pretrial services, and commercial bail bonding practices – work that was funded by the Public Welfare Foundation.

“With the launch of this database, it will no longer be a challenge for legislators and policy-makers to understand the laws that impact pretrial criminal justice in individual states, or on the national level,” Milgram said. “This resource for the first time provides a comprehensive guide to current laws affecting these critical issues and will allow lawmakers and practitioners to learn from one another, identify potential reforms, and spread best practices.”

LJAF and NCSL previously published three reports on pretrial legislation introduced or enacted over the past year. LJAF also recently announced that, over the coming year, it will partner with NCSL so that NCSL can update and augment its existing database of laws governing the use of DNA in criminal proceedings to include information on statutes pertaining to a wide variety of forensic science issues. That project is expected to be complete in March 2014.

About Laura and John Arnold Foundation

Laura and John Arnold Foundation is private foundation that currently focuses its strategic investments on criminal justice, education, public accountability, and research integrity.  LJAF has offices in Houston and New York City.


Pretrial Services – Defining Success by Failing More Than 20% of the Time

What if you only showed up for work 4 out of 5 days a week?  Would that be acceptable to your employer?  What if you only paid 4 out of every 5 bills you received from your local utility?  Would they still keep your power on?  What if you only completed 79% of your tax return?  Would the IRS let you get away with it?   The easy answer to all these questions is ABSOLUTELY NOT!

So you are probably asking why I am asking such common sense questions.  Well, the truth is what is common sense to most of us is unfortunately not common sense to others.  For example, just this past weekend, an article was written in the Courier-Journal touting the incredible success of the pretrial services program in Jefferson County, Kentucky.  A state that you may or may not know that does not allow commercial bail.  According to a Jefferson County District Court judge, the Pretrial Service Agency in his county gets High-Risk defendants back to court “an amazing 79% of the time….”  Really?  Amazing?  Twenty-one percent of the time, the defendant is pretty much ignoring the authority of the system and doing whatever they want, and that, according to the judge is “amazing” and defines “success?”  Interesting and disturbing to say the least.

The article goes on to show some math to support the so called success of the Pretrial Services Agencies.  However, if you are a common sense person, it is really hard to define these numbers as “success.”  According to the article, 35,186 people obtained pretrial release in Jefferson County.  Each of these individuals went through a so called evidenced based risk assessment by the local Pretrial Services Agency.  Thirteen percent of low-risk defendants did not show up for court….does that sound like success?  Twenty percent of medium risk defendants did not show up for court…does that sound like success?  Twenty one percent of high-risk defendants did not show up for court…once again, does that sound like success?  To the pretrial folks, sure, it is great.  But to the community it is absolutely not.  Especially when almost 20% of the high-risk defendants are re-offending…in other words, several thousand defendants who have been released under pretrial services’ imaginary veil of supervision are ignoring the authority of the courts and in the process are running free to commit more crimes and victims.  And all this happens at a serious financial and social cost to the county and state.  When people fail to appear for court there is a huge financial cost that accompanies that act.  In Dallas, Texas that cost was found to be over $1,700 per defendant.  Applying that number to Jefferson County, based on a failure to appear rate of over 21% for just high risk defendants, the cost to Jefferson County is easily in the millions of dollars.

What makes this story even more disturbing is that this ineffective and costly system of managing criminal defendants (on both the front and back end of the process) is funded 100% by taxpayer dollars.  Yes, those taxpayers in Jefferson County, Kentucky are paying for a government run Pretrial Service Agency to fail 20% of the time.  And just for the record, when these 20% of high-risk defendants don’t show up for court, who do you think goes and gets them?  Who is held accountable and pays the court when they don’t show up?  The answer is no one.  Why?  Because there is no skin in the game and no accountability by any party involved (pretrial services or the defendant).  When a defendant fails to appear, Pretrial Service Agencies have nothing to lose.  The court just issues a bench warrant and it becomes the responsibility of already overburdened law enforcement to get him…which usually happens after they have committed an additional crime.

There is definitely not a simple solution to the challenges facing criminal justice systems like Kentucky.  However, there is a more effective solution.  A solution that is currently in practice in 46 other states;  A solution that gets defendants back to court better than any other form of pretrial release;  A solution that does not cost the taxpayers a single dollar; A  solution that actually generates revenue for the county and state through premium taxes and forfeiture payments; A solution that is based on a real risk assessment and is evidenced based; A solution that lowers recidivism and better protects the community; and finally, a solution that gives crime victims a chance at justice. This solution is the commercial bail bond industry.  It is time for states like Kentucky to start considering ways to more responsibly and effectively maintain the accountability of their criminal justice system and protect the public interest of its communities.

via - Behind the Paper with Brian Nairin: Pretrial Services – Defining Success by Failing More Than 20% of the Time.

Dog and Beth Chapman on Public Safety Bill HB 2514

Rep. Pine talks with Dog and Beth Chapman, stars of the A&E reality show Dog The Bounty Hunter about their concerns on public safety bill HB 2514.

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Pretrial Release


What impact has Pretrial Release had in your county? Have your precious tax dollars been used to make our communities safer or are they putting you and your family more at risk? It’s time you heard the facts…or shall we say, the myths about Pretrial Release. If you are a bail agent you may want to share this information with your local opinion leaders.


To receive your FREE copy of the “Taxpayer Funded Pretrial Release – A Failed System” booklet, visit