How to Meaningfully Advance Pretrial and Bail Reform, while Combatting Misinformation

22nd Annual State Criminal Justice Network Conference
August 16-17, 2023 | Held Virtually

Despite assurances that, “[I]n our society, liberty is the norm, and detention prior to trial…the carefully limited exception,” over 75 percent of those detained in local jails have not been convicted of a crime.


Two-thirds of state pretrial populations are held for non-violent offenses, and the racial disparities which plague the criminal legal system are especially pronounced in pretrial decisions. With pretrial decisions having substantial, long-term case impacts, the use and abuse of pretrial detention erodes the presumption of innocence and destroys any sense of justice. The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the deadly consequences of widespread pretrial incarceration, prompting a renewed call and sense of urgency for releasing individuals detained pretrial.

In New Jersey lawmakers implemented bail reforms that shifted from a primarily from a cash bail system to a risk-based system. New York adopted a historic bail reform law that eliminated cash bail for most people charged with misdemeanors and nonviolent felonies. And in Illinois, lawmakers abolished cash bail, making it the first state to do so. However, over the past few years New York lawmakers have continuously rolled backed its bail reform law, and the Illinois’ reform was initially put on pause but has survived with the Supreme Court upholding the law that eliminated cash bail. Join this panel to hear from advocates working to advance pretrial reform and receive tips and strategies for responding to critics and addressing concerns from court actors, legislators, and others.

#EndMassIncarceration: 50 Years of Failure

  • Brandon Buskey, Director, Criminal Law Reform Project, American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)
  • David Gasper, CEO, The Bail Project
  • Sharlyn Grace, Senior Policy Advisor, Law Office of the Cook County Public Defender
  • Moderated by: Rena Karefa-Johnson, Vice President, National Initiatives,

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