Issues: Criminal and Juvenile Justice

Pretrial Justice

MDRC is studying reforms in the court processes that are used to decide whether people charged with a crime will be detained in jail while awaiting trial. 

The Latest

In 2017, New Jersey implemented sweeping changes to its pretrial justice system. This report is one of a planned series on the impacts of those changes. It describes how the reforms affected short-term outcomes including arrests, complaint charging decisions, release conditions, and initial jail bookings.


The Public Safety Assessment (PSA) assesses the likelihood that a defendant will commit a new crime or fail to appear for court hearings, information that then can guide decisions about release conditions. This study presents the effects of the PSA and related policy changes in Mecklenburg County, NC.

Key Documents

An Alternative to Bail

Defendants awaiting trial and unable to post bail are often detained in local jails unnecessarily, disrupting their lives and adding to costs for taxpayers. To address this situation, New York City has launched a program that gives judges the option to release some defendants to community-based supervision. 

Issue Focus

Improving Outcomes for Clients While Helping Systems Further Their Missions

This issue focus describes how MDRC is helping administrators in criminal justice and child support enforcement test innovative reforms to improve the way their systems interact with low-income people, particularly men of color.