To help promote systemic change in the criminal justice system, the Laura and John Arnold Foundation has announced the launch of an initiative to create more transparency around state-level pretrial laws and proposed criminal justice legislation in every state.
Spearheaded by the National Conference of State Legislatures, the initiative will compile on a quarterly basis legislation related to the pretrial criminal justice process, from arrest through sentencing, across all fifty states; summaries of existing laws in each state; and an online database of pending legislation and existing laws, to go live in mid-2013. It is hoped that the quarterly reports and database will make it easier for lawmakers, criminal justice practitioners, researchers, and the public to gain an understanding of pretrial laws and proposed legislation in their respective states.
Last week, NCSL released the first of four Arnold Foundation-funded compilations — an overview of legislation acted on between January and September 2012. The report included information on 395 bills and resolutions addressing a range of issues — including pretrial detention, release, and associated conditions; pretrial diversion and services; use of citations in lieu of arrest and use of risk assessment and evidence in the pretrial system — of which 115 were enacted or adopted, 198 failed to pass or were vetoed, and 82 were still pending. The initiative builds on work NCSL has done for the Public Welfare Foundation to compile state-by-state information on bail eligibility, pretrial services, and commercial bail bonds.
"The Laura and John Arnold Foundation is committed to pursuing research and developing tools to ensure that the front end of the system is as effective as possible at protecting the public, minimizing crime, making wise use of public resources, and administering justice fairly and efficiently," said LJAF vice president of criminal justice Anne Milgram. "Having a centralized database of key pretrial laws and legislation nationwide will allow jurisdictions to learn from one another, and will help policy makers in each state assess how best to improve their pretrial system."