Top Reads

The Bail Project / Newsroom  / Top Reads (Page 7)

An op-ed from leading thinkers in statistics, data science and law explains the fundamental problems with pre-trial risk assessments:

“Applying ‘big data’ forecasting to our existing criminal justice practices is not just inadequate — it also risks cementing the irrational fears and flawed logic of mass incarceration behind a veneer of scientific objectivity.”

Indianapolis Business Journal highlights our work in the city.

“I don’t think people understand the impact even a few days in jail has on a human life and their entire family. They can lose everything: their home, their children, their job. It’s so difficult to get back on the right track.” -Devi Davis, our bail disruptor in Indianapolis.

Since launching in June 2018, the Bail Project in Detroit has bailed out almost 200 people, including 72 fathers. On June 15, this past Father’s Day, the Bail Project and Detroit Justice Center hosted a celebration with fathers who likely would have been incarcerated that day had they not received help posting bond.

Reflecting on her work, bail disruptor Asia Johnson said, “When I see clients like Chris and Abigail, I know that it is worth the fight. … The fact that they are here today and he’s celebrating being a father and I got to bring him back home to his family. It just means the world to me.”

When 19-year-old Daehaun White was released from jail in St. Louis, he was so overjoyed that he forgot to check in with a representative for the company EMASS, which straps black boxes with GPS monitoring onto the ankles of people on pretrial release.

Soon, White’s arrest on minor charges spiraled into a debt exceeding $800, all owed to a company that charges defendants $10 a day plus other excessive fees. The city of St. Louis offers defendants no hearing to determine whether they can pay fees for such onerous surveillance.

A study released by the Center for Court Innovation last week offers further proof that pretrial risk-assessments tools⁠—which some states have turned to in place of cash bail⁠—assign higher risk scores to Black people compared to white, meaning the former are more likely to remain incarcerated where risk assessments are used.

While others have made similar observations, the study adds value to the discussion because it suggests this kind of racism is intrinsic to the risk assessment model by design, and not particular to just one or a handful of assessments.

The Cambridge Homeless Court takes a different approach from most, connecting defendants with resources outside the court system. But critics say it doesn’t get to the root of the problem: “Communities are intentionally targeting the homeless by making it a crime to sleep on the street, or panhandle, or by selectively enforcing petty laws, using the criminal justice system to address the social service problem. Our preference would be simply stop criminalizing that behavior in the first place.”

Summarized by Jacob Koffler