Criminal Justice Program Releases A Proposal for a Pre-trial Justice System Without Money Bail or Risk Assessment Tools

October 15, 2020

In  a new report, UCLA’s Criminal Justice Program (CJP) argues that proposed alternatives to the money bail system are too often constrained by the notion that risk assessment tools are the only or the most effective alternative. The report -- “Creating a Needs-Based Pre-trial Release System: The False Dichotomy of Money Bail Versus Risk Assessment Tools”--proposes an alternative that allows pre-trial detention to be used only in a very limited set of circumstances, while supporting those released pre-trial with community-based, voluntary services to ensure return to court and that other vital needs are being met. 

CJP’s report argues for robust pre-trial detention hearings and proposes a community care and support agency “CASA” that jurisdictions around the country could create to support individuals released pre-trial. In addition, the proposed model would not rely on risk-assessment tools to determine who is released, as there have been concerns that these tools may lead to an increase in racial disparities in the criminal legal system.

Such an alternative system “is vital to transforming the way we as a society treat people who are legally innocent, are awaiting their trial and are often subject to horrific conditions inside jails and who may lose their jobs or housing simply because they wish to exercise their constitutional right to a trial,” says Alicia Virani, The Gilbert Foundation Associate Director of CJP. Virani went on to say “encouraging the supported release of more people pre-trial, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic should be a priority for all decision makers as pre-trial detention has become a death sentence for many.”

Máximo Langer, Faculty Director of the CJP, adds: “The recent discussions on how to regulate pretrial release in California and beyond have often been limited to a choice between money bail and risk assessment tools.  Given that the judgment about risk assessment tools is still open and the serious concerns expressed about them, this proposal puts together another alternative to money bail that would treat those subject to the criminal process more humanely and more fairly, and may better advance the goals of pretrial release.”

Rodrigo Padilla-Hernandez, a student who helped author the report through UCLA School of Law’s Bail Practicum, Fall 2019, stated “This report seeks to show that there is another way - a path founded on the principle that all people are innocent unless proven guilty, and that we have no right to punish anyone who is innocent, no matter how much society may suspect them to be guilty.  The CASA proposal requires more from us than our current failing carceral system, but it promises to give what our carceral system never could: help, care and shelter for those in need.”  

The Report may be accessed online.

For more information, please contact Alicia Virani at virani@law.ucla.edu or 310-486-6907.

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