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

Criminal Justice Reform

SJI assists state courts in taking a leadership role in reviewing fines, fees, and bail practices to ensure processes are fair and access to justice is assured; implementing alternative forms of sanction; developing processes for indigency review; promoting transparency, gover­nance, and structural reforms that promote access to justice, accountability, and oversight; and implementing innovative diversion and re-entry programs that serve to improve outcomes for justice-involved persons and the justice system. 


CCJ/COSCA National Task Force on Fines, Fees, & Bail Practices

In 2016, the Conference of Chief Justices/Conference of State Court Administrators (CCJ/COSCA) established the National Task Force on Fines, Fees, and Bail Practices to develop recommendations and tools to promote the fair and efficient enforcement of the law; ensure no person is denied access to the justice system based on lack of economic resources; and, develop policies relating to legal financial obligations that promote access, fairness, and transparency.  SJI, along with the DOJ/Bureau of Justice Assistance, has provided grant funding to support the work of the Task Force.  The Task Force produced the Principles on Fines, Fees, and Bail Practices, in addition to numerous additional resources in the Resource Center.


Pretrial Justice and the State Courts Initiative

The Pretrial Justice and the State Court Initiative is a collaboration between the National Center for State Courts (NCSC) and the Pretrial Justice Institute (PJI).  The Initiative helps courts implement legal and evidence-based pretrial practices through the development of national resources and the provision of technical assistance (TA) targeted specifically to state courts. 

As a result of this Initiative, state courts will have access to resources to facilitate implementation of their specific pretrial system improvements, as well as enhance the success of their reform efforts.  NCSC and PJI will highlight individual jurisdictions’ achievements electronically and in presentations to encourage knowledge-sharing and peer-to-peer learning across the state court community.  By supporting court systems implementing legal and evidence-based pretrial practices, the Initiative ultimately will help reduce unnecessary confinement of defendants based solely on their inability to pay and ensure that dangerous defendants are appropriately detained. The Initiative also will assist state and local courts in their efforts to ensure equal justice and due process for all.

Two resources are available that provide valuable insights on successful pretrial programs administered by state courts:

1.) Estimating the Costs of Implementing Pretrial Assessment and Monitoring Services: This brief highlights how courts and their criminal justice system partners can collaborate to estimate the costs of using an evidenced-based pretrial assessment and monitoring tools (both supervision-based and remote/electronic).  Examples from California, Kentucky, New Jersey, Yakima County in Washington, and St. Mary’s County in Maryland, are presented to show how both uniform statewide and jurisdiction-based programs have been planned, implemented, and reviewed.  The brief walks the reader through considerations to explore with stakeholders before moving forward in light of shared outcomes, efficiencies, and cost-benefit analysis.

2.) Pretrial Justice Planning Guide for Courts: This guide provides an in-depth analysis of the pretrial planning process that jurisdictions have or should embark on when working with partners using a multi-phase approach.  By breaking down the process into: 1) Guiding Questions; 2) Tasks and Worksheets; and, 3) Online Resources, the guide is meant to actively support the planning process after agreement that some pretrial program and service is needed, or a situation where the court is positioned as the lead to guide the process to redesign  and improve the existing pretrial program.