This week the American Council of Chief Defenders released a policy statement on Policy Statement on Fair and Effective Pretrial Justice Practices
Pretrial release practices throughout the country frequently result in the unjust, unnecessary, expensive, and prolonged detention of many individuals prior to trial.Our legal traditions urge us to reserve pretrial detention for only the most carefully limited circumstances, and all available evidence reflects the importance of doing so.
Pretrial detention has harsh consequences, including the loss of jobs, homes, and family ties. Research has revealed that all other factors being equal, individuals who are detained prior to trial experience more severe ultimate outcomes. Just as importantly, the heavy reliance by many jurisdictions upon monetary bond as a pretrial release condition disproportionately affects the poor and minorities.
Given our evidence???based ability to accurately identify risk, communities can lower their jail costs while ensuring that only those who pose significant risks of flight or danger are detained.
This American Council of Chief Defenders Policy Statement calls for a new commitment by all criminal justice stakeholders to ensure fair and appropriate pretrial release decision???making, and outlines key action steps for each pretrial actor. In particular, this statement calls upon defenders to advance the following initiatives:
Examine Pretrial Release Practices Within Their Own Jurisdictions to Identify Key Areas of Improvement. While jurisdictions may share common issues, each has its own unique set of practices and traditions. Where unnecessary or unjust pretrial detention is occurring, defenders ought to identify the particular practices leading to those outcomes.
Identify and Implement National Standards and Best Practices. Several national organizations have developed national standards on pretrial practices, and these provide excellent guidelines for defenders in developing strategies to improve pretrial outcomes. Defenders should become familiar with these standards and strive to implement them in daily practice.
Develop Collaborative Efforts Among All Criminal Justice Stakeholders to Improve Pretrial Practices. Improvements are only feasible where open dialogue is occurring between all pertinent criminal justice leaders. Defenders can lead the effort to develop a collaborative approach to rectifying identified detrimental pretrial practices. This effort ought to include local and state policy???makers, who determine how resources are allocated.
Develop Effective Pretrial Litigation Strategies. Defenders ought to be equipped with effective and efficient litigation strategies, grounded in local practice and law, to challenge pretrial???release decisions that result in unnecessary detention.
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