Supporting the Nation's Judicial System & the Public it Serves

February 1, 2024

Advancing Pretrial Justice Initiative

Pretrial policies have undergone significant change and advancement over the last decade. In 2013, the Conference of Chief Justices (CCJ) and the Conference of State Court Administrators (COSCA) endorsed the COSCA Policy Paper on Evidence-Based Pretrial Release. CCJ and COSCA also hosted five Pretrial Regional Summits between May 2016 and November 2018 to facilitate the planning of pretrial policy changes, particularly those around pretrial release. In response, and with support from the State Justice Institute (SJI), the National Center for State Courts (NCSC) launched the Advancing Pretrial Justice Initiative. The goal of this initiative is to develop resources for court leaders and to provide technical assistance to courts in implementing pretrial policy and practice improvements.

Through this initiative, NCSC has provided technical assistance to courts in the form of trainings, customized guides and checklists, summaries of the literature on specific topics, connections to pretrial experts, and other forms of assistance. These engagements have focused on topics like pretrial assessment for release planning, electronic monitoring, pretrial staff safety and wellness, court date notifications, establishing pretrial services programs, and performance monitoring.

NCSC also developed the Pretrial Justice Center for Courts (PJCC), an online resource for judicial leaders and practitioners to explore a variety of pretrial justice topics. The PJCC is dedicated to helping courts plan for and develop their pretrial systems with practical resources. In addition to being a repository of information on the latest research, the website contains examples of pretrial reform efforts initiated across the country, short briefs outlining key pretrial justice topics, and tools for jurisdictions looking to implement new, evidence-based pretrial policies. For example, users can download a pretrial justice planning guide and tool to estimate the costs of implementing pretrial services to prepare for policy and practice changes in their jurisdiction.

The PJCC was recently updated with new resources and to improve the user interface. A pretrial justice reform activities data visualization was added to allow users to quickly identify – by topic area, year, and state – examples of legislative changes initiated or enacted between 2018 and 2022. By March of this year, the website will be updated with additional resources, including the results of a 2022 – 2023 survey on the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on pretrial policy implementation. Tell us what additional resources would be helpful to advance pretrial justice in your court.