This month, a group of criminal justice stakeholders in Harris County, Texas unveiled new pretrial procedures for misdemeanor defendants that promise to drastically reduce the use of money bail and pretrial detention for individuals accused of low-level offenses. The new procedures adopt recommendations from research published by the University of Pennsylvania’s Quattrone Center for the Fair Administration of Justice in the Stanford Law Review in 2017 demonstrating that curtailing misdemeanor pretrial detention in Harris County can reduce wrongful convictions and shorten sentences while increasing public safety, saving taxpayers money.
The research figured prominently in District Court and Fifth Circuit opinions in O’Donnell v. Harris County, a landmark class action lawsuit addressing the unconstitutional detention of lower-income individuals who, despite their pretrial presumption of innocence, were being held in jail because they could not afford to make cash bail. A preliminary injunction in the case barring detention of poor defendants secured release for 13,000 people, and the newly adopted reforms formalize and expand the injunction’s approach.
In addition to its research being integral in this recent ruling, the Center’s work on bail reform has been cited in legislative efforts in numerous states including Hawaii, New York, Delaware, and Georgia.
Bail reform is just one of the many important issues being worked on by the Quattrone Center, which the Charles Koch Foundation has supported since 2016.
The Quattrone Center is a nonpartisan, national research and policy hub that takes an interdisciplinary and data-driven approach to analyzing key problems with our criminal justice system. The work the Center has undertaken since its founding in 2013 is helping to deepen understanding of and inform change on critical criminal justice issues.