We design and implement bail reform strategies to reduce the use of jail and increase the fairness of the justice system.
On any given day, people who haven’t been found guilty of any crime are detained across the U.S. because of an inability to post bail. This imposes enormous costs: for taxpayers, for detainees and their families, and for their communities.
The Center for Court Innovation works to promote bail reform in a number of ways. We operate supervised release programs that provide pretrial supervision and voluntary social services as an alternative to detention. We design and evaluate risk assessment tools and advocate for the careful and ethical expansion of their use to improve pretrial decision-making. We produce comprehensive recommendations for simplifying New York City’s bail payment process. And we provide research and strategic support to the Independent Commission on New York City Criminal Justice and Incarceration Reform which put reducing pretrial detention at the center of its recommendations for safely reducing the city’s jail population and closing the Rikers Island jail facility.
For additional details on how bail is a financial burden for those with limited means, see our Fines and Fees resource page.
Bronx Community Solutions
Bronx Community Solutions provides community-based alternatives to jail, restores community relationships, and helps participants avoid further criminal justice involvement.
Brooklyn Justice Initiatives
Brooklyn Justice Initiatives seeks to improve how the centralized criminal court in Brooklyn responds to misdemeanor and felony cases.
Staten Island Justice Center
The Staten Island Justice Center seeks to reduce crime and incarceration by providing court-involved participants with services and by engaging the community in prevention programs.
MacArthur Foundation’s Safety and Justice Challenge
The MacArthur Foundation’s Safety and Justice Challenge seeks to reduce over-incarceration by changing the way America thinks about and uses jails.
Price of Justice Initiative
The Price of Justice Initiative helps jurisdictions address the disparate impact of fines and fees on defendants who cannot afford them.
Rethinking Rikers Island
By providing support to the Independent Commission on Criminal Justice and Incarceration Reform, we're aiding in the effort to reduce New York City’s jail population and close Rikers Island.
Supervised Release Program
The Supervised Release Program reduces the number of people held in jail simply because they cannot afford bail.
Our analysis of the revisions passed in April 2020 to New York State’s bail reform projects they will lead to a 16 percent increase in New York City’s pretrial jail population, relative to the effects of the original law. However, even the revised statute makes an estimated 84 percent of cases ineligible for bail. The analysis also weighs factors, including the COVID-19 emergency, that could produce a culture change in pretrial decision-making—in the direction of less, or more, reliance on detention.
Drawing on a case study of more than 175,000 defendants in New York City, this report concludes concerns over risk assessments perpetuating racial disparities in pretrial decisions are real. However, at least in the New York City example, it finds a more targeted use of risk assessments could both significantly reduce pretrial detention and alleviate racial disparities. But realizing that potential requires jurisdictions to think "beyond the algorithm"—what do they want to use a risk assessment for?
On New Thinking, an audio snapshot from an emergency rally demanding immediate measures to release people from New York City’s Rikers Island jail facility. Twelve people have died in the custody of the city’s jail system this year as the chief medical officer for NYC Jails warns of “a collapse in basic jail operations.”
Eric Lach for the New Yorker spends time in the courtroom at arraignment to understand some of the factors fueling the current crisis on Rikers Island. The article cites our research that identified a 2020 spike in judges setting bail and explores the alternatives that judges have to bail--like someone being released on their own recognizance or supervised release.
Citing our research, Gothamist looks at the role of pretrial decision-making in fueling the crisis on Rikers Island where the jail population has been rising steadily for months. “The research overwhelmingly indicates that releasing people reduces recidivism in the long run, and pre-trial detention increases it,” said Michael Rempel, our director of jail reform.