Sending Office: Honorable Ted Lieu
Sent By:
Elizabeth.Arevalo@mail.house.gov

Deadline: Thursday, March 15 at 12:00 p.m.

Please fill out
this form
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Dear Colleague,

Please join us in supporting $5 million in funding for the Department of Justice’s Smart Pretrial Initiative in FY 2019. The Smart Pretrial Initiative works with competitively selected sites to help demonstrate how jurisdictions can develop, implement, and
sustain pretrial risk assessment and supervision strategies for defendants, and move away from devastating money bail. Smart Pretrial is administered by the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) and is part of BJA’s “Smart on Crime Suite,” which includes Smart
Prosecution, Smart Defense, Smart Policing, Smart Supervision, and now Smart Pretrial.

Of the more than 2 million people incarcerated in America on any given day, 450,000 individuals have not been convicted of their charges. The most common reason why people are held in jail before trial is an inability to pay money bail. Those with money
can buy their freedom while poor defendants stay behind bars awaiting trial, and often plead guilty purely to get out of jail and back to their jobs and families. Research shows that low-risk defendants held in jail for just a few days have a higher chance
of failing to appear or being rearrested once released—jail destabilizes the factors that made them low risk in the first place, such as employment, housing, and family connections.

There are proven alternatives to money bail that work. A growing number of cities and states have adopted pretrial risk assessment tools to help determine which defendants should be detained because they pose a danger to public safety or a flight risk, and
those that can be safely sent home, with more cost-effective supervision, if necessary. Three counties and states have successfully completed their three-year grants and six counties are currently implementing the grants. They are following in the footsteps
of the local District of Columbia system, which eliminated reliance on money bail honoring the presumption of innocence and ensuring that justice isn’t measured by a defendant’s wealth. As a result, 85% of defendants are released before trial, of whom more
than 90% return to court and stay arrest free while their cases are pending.

We ask that $5 million be included for Smart Pretrial under Justice Assistance Grants in order for this program to continue for FY 2019 with another round of sites and accompanying support from technical assistance experts.
Please fill out
this form
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on and contact Elizabeth Arevalo with Congressman Lieu with any questions.

 

Sincerely,

Ted W. Lieu                      Bonnie Watson Coleman                      Ruben Gallego

 

Letter Text: 

March XX, 2018

 

The Honorable John Culberson

Chair, Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies

Committee on Appropriations

H-310 The Capitol

U.S. House of Representatives

Washington, DC 20515

The Honorable José Serrano

Ranking Member, Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies

Committee on Appropriations

1016 Longworth House Office Building

U.S. House of Representatives

Washington, DC 20515

Dear Chairman Culberson and Ranking Member Serrano:

Please support funding of $5 million for the Bureau of Justice Assistance’s (BJA) Smart Pretrial program in FY 2019.  Smart Pretrial is administered by the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) and is part of BJA’s “Smart on Crime Suite,” which includes Smart
Prosecution, Smart Defense, Smart Policing, Smart Supervision, and now Smart Pretrial. The Smart Pretrial Initiative works with competitively selected sites to demonstrate how jurisdictions can develop, implement, and sustain pretrial risk assessment and supervision
strategies for defendants, and move away from devastating money bail. 

Of the more than 2 million people who are incarcerated in America on any given day, 450,000 individuals have not been convicted of their charges. The most common reason why people are held in jail before trial is an inability to pay money bail. Those with
money can buy their freedom while poor defendants stay behind bars awaiting trial, often pleading guilty purely to get out of jail and back to their jobs and families. Research shows that low-risk defendants held in jail for just a few days have a higher chance
of failing to appear or being rearrested once released—jail destabilizes the factors that made them low risk in the first place, such as employment, housing, and family connections.

Money bail puts public safety at risk. According to a recent study by the Laura and John Arnold Foundation, nearly half of the most dangerous defendants exploit the money bail system to buy their release, returning to communities without any supervision.
Unnecessary pretrial detention of low-risk defendants is also expensive. State and local governments spend an estimated $14 billion each year to detain people who have not been convicted of the charges against them. Pretrial systems based on risk, and not
wealth, cost on average $7 a day. In comparison, jail beds may cost more than $200 per day.

There are proven alternatives to money bail that work. A growing number of cities and states have adopted pretrial risk assessment tools to help determine which defendants should be detained because they pose a danger to public safety or a flight risk, and
which ones can be safely sent home with more cost-effective supervision, if necessary. They are following in the footsteps of the local District of Columbia system, which eliminated reliance on money bail, honors the presumption of innocence, and does not
measure justice by a defendant’s wealth. As a result, 85 percent of defendants are released before trial, of whom more than 90 percent return to court and stay arrest free while their cases are pending. 

In 2014, BJA awarded three-year grants to the City and County of Denver, Colorado, Yakima County, Washington, and the State of Delaware. A report by the Pretrial Justice Institute evaluating the success of those grants found pretrial release rates increased
for Denver and Yakima County. Moreover, Denver saved $2 million annually and Yakima County saw decreases in racial disparities among pretrial release rates and slight decreases in the new arrest and court appearance rates. Today, six additional localities
– including Alachua County, Florida, Lucas County, Ohio, and Santa Clara County, California – are participating in the three-year grant program. It is critical that these sites and others in the future maintain access to BJA funds that allow them to strengthen
their pretrial services programs. These improvements will increase public safety, save tax dollars, and stop criminalizing poverty.

We ask that $5 million be included for Smart Pretrial under Justice Assistance Grants in order for this program to continue for FY 2019 with another round of sites and accompanying support from technical assistance experts.

We cannot continue to be a nation that believes in freedom and equal justice under the law, yet locks up thousands of people solely because they cannot afford money bail. We cannot continue to be a nation that believes in the principle of innocence until
proven guilty, yet detains more than 450,000 Americans every day who have not been convicted of their charges. America should not be a country where liberty is based on income. 

 

Sincerely,

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