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, with an explicit focus on racial disparities.

The Latest

In 2016, New York City rolled out Supervised Release, which allowed judges to release defendants under supervision instead of setting bail. The findings in this report suggest that the program reduced the number of defendants detained in jail, while at the same time maintaining court appearance rates and public safety.


Pretrial release and detention decisions for defendants are increasingly guided by risk assessments guided by data, which are intended to counteract biases but have the potential to introduce new biases and perpetuate racial disparities. This research brief describes the approach taken by MDRC to understand, assess, and address these biases.

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.