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Has bail reform in America finally reached a tipping point?

In Illinois, lawmakers introduced in February legislation that would outlaw money bonds, and Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx moved last month to release inmates with bonds of $1,000 or less who could not afford to pay them. Nationally, both New Jersey and Maryland have dramatically overhauled the way they use cash-based bail this year, and other states promise to follow suit. Facing lawsuits and tight budgets, states and local governments across the country have started to rethink the use of money to keep people in jail.


Pre-trial algorithms deserve a fresh look, study suggests

But a new large scale study — Human Decisions and Machine Predictions— demonstrates that it’s possible to build a predictive tool that simultaneously accomplishes three desirable goals: reducing pre-trial detention rates, reducing re-arrest rates of those released pending trial, and reducing racial disparities in which defendants are jailed. Policymakers across the ideological spectrum should be interested in this result and encourage further study.

California bill to eliminate bail system clears first hurdle

Passed 5-1 by the Senate Public Safety Committee, the law could lead counties to release many of the 46,000 Californians behind bars, awaiting trial or sentencing without involving a bail agent. Washington, D.C., and New Jersey have made similar changes — as has Santa Clara County — and California is one of eight states weighing reforms.


NBER:  Occasionally there are articles from the National Bureau for Economic Research (NBER) that focus on criminal justice issues.  One recent article was entitled: Comparing Apples to Oranges: Differences in Women’s and Men’s Incarceration and Sentencing Outcomes by Kristin F. Butcher, Kyung H. Park, and Anne Morrison Piehl (NBER Working Paper #23079).

There are fees for receiving pdf versions unless you are a subscriber, which includes those with emails having a .gov domain.  Many universities have subscriptions as well.  The NBER website for further information is:

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An article in the Los Angeles Times on two sheriffs (Baca and Carona) elected as reformers ending up destroyed by corruption scandals can be accessed at:



Articles from a Recent “The Crime Report”

The ‘Deflection’ Surge: Key to Reducing Re-Arrests

A public health approach to better public safety.

Getting Away With Murder: The National Crisis of Cold-Case Homicides

The unsolved rate of homicides is also on the rise, that means more people are getting away with murder.

Women Shortchanged by Justice Reforms: Report

Criminal justice reform has not helped women to the same extent that it has benefited men, says a study from the Prisoner Reentry Institute at John Jay College.

Texas Eyes Sweeping Changes in Police-Community Relations

Last week, Texas legislators begin examining a package of bills aimed at cooling off the strained relations between cops and civilians.

Americans Favor ‘Rehabilitation’ Over Jail Time, Survey Finds

A significant majority of Americans believe putting people behind bars for non-violent offenses is wrong—and almost three-quarters favor “rehabilitation” over jail when such offenses are committed by those who suffer from mental illness.

Report Cites Mass Incarceration, ‘Racial Achievement Gap’

When parents are incarcerated, children do worse across both cognitive and non-cognitive outcome measures, and the incarceration issues are a key cause.

To read more on these stories go to



Mental Illness, Untreated Behind Bars

So it might have come as a surprise to him when a member of the National Sheriffs’ Association at a White House meeting earlier this month brought up an urgent problem sheriffs’ offices all face — the mental health crisis that has filled jails to bursting with mentally ill people who would be more effectively dealt with through treatment.

An Editorial in the New York Times, February 27th. Go to, click on “opinion” and scroll down to the editorial.


Shackled to Debt – Criminal Justice Financial Obligations and the Barriers to Re-entry They Create. By Karin D. Martin, et al. Harvard Kennedy School. Jan. 13, 2017. 26 p.

A significant number of formerly incarcerated people face criminal justice financial obligations, such as fines, forfeiture of property, court fees, supervision fees, and restitution, all of which complicate life after incarceration. “Between bad credit ratings, loss of voting rights, wage garnishment and a whole host of other sanctions, the ripple effect of being unable to pay off criminal fines and fees can last decades. This only serves to reinforce and deepen the marginalization and isolation that the justice-involved face from mainstream social, economic, and political institutions.” This report describes trends in assessment of these financial obligations, discusses historical context, and considers alternative models for the effective and fair deployment of restitution.


Everything You Think You Know About Mass Incarceration Is Wrong

In his new book, “Locked In,” the economist and law professor John Pfaff challenges popular assumptions about how America became the most incarcerated nation on Earth. The war on drugs did not generate the wave of incarceration, punitive sentencing and private prisons are not mainly to blame, and if we want to dig our way out we have to start at the beginning: with the vast discretion prosecutors have to charge defendants in the first place.


Big data may be reinforcing racial bias in the criminal justice system

Big data has expanded to the criminal justice system. In Los Angeles, police use computerized “predictive policing” to anticipate crimes and allocate officers. In Fort Lauderdale, Fla., machine-learning algorithms are used to set bond amounts. In states across the country, data-driven estimates of the risk of recidivism are being used to set jail sentences.


“Sentencing Outcomes in US District Courts: Can Offenders’ Educational Attainment Guard
Against Prevalent Criminal Stereotypes?” By Travis W. Franklin. Crime and Delinquency vol. 63 no. 2 (2017) pp. 137-165.

The research demonstrated that high school graduates are 10% less likely to be sent to prison than those who did not finish high school and, when sent to prison, their average sentence is 1.4% shorter. Additionally, those who were either Hispanic or Asian faced greater chance of being incarcerated than whites (24% and 38%) and males faced greater chance of imprisonment compared to females.


PEW RESEARCH completed a major study on how approximately 8,000 police officers feel about their work and community relations.  One article from this survey finds that black and white officers see many key aspects of policing differently. The link to this article is: