Bail Reform


On any given day, an estimated half million people are detained across the U.S. because of an inability to post bail. The costs of pre-trial detention are enormous, both in terms of taxpayer money and the impact it has on the lives of detainees, their families, and their neighborhoods.

In New York City, bail is set for approximately 55,000 defendants each year, over half of whom are charged with low-level offenses such as misdemeanors and violations. Although the bail amount is no higher than $1,000 in the vast majority of non-felony cases, most defendants are unable to post that amount and are thereby subject to pre-trial detention – a reality that has been decried by advocacy groups, newspapers, and public officials across the political spectrum.

The Center for Court Innovation works to promote bail reform in a number of ways, including through Brooklyn Justice Initiatives’ supervised release program. 


MacArthur Foundation Safety and Justice Challenge

The Center for Court Innovation is a technical assistance provider to the MacArthur Foundation’s Safety and Justice Challenge, an initiative that seeks to reduce the use of local jail and create fairer, more effective local justice systems. Reducing pre-trial detention is a key strategy being tested by many of the cities participating in the challenge.

Brooklyn Justice Initiatives

Brooklyn Justice Initiatives seeks to forge a new response to non-violent defendants in Kings County, New York. Operating out of Kings County Criminal Court, Brooklyn Justice Initiatives provides pre-trial supervised release and post-conviction sentencing options to defendants in misdemeanor cases. An overview of its efforts can be found here.

In The News

The Bail Trap

The New York Times Magazine examines the economic and social costs of detaining indigent defendants who cannot afford bail and the national effort to reform the practice.

Get Out of Jail Free: US Cities Eye Bail Reform, Other Efforts to Help Poor

The Christian Science Monitor writes about the push for bail reform across the U.S. and interviews Center for Court Innovation Director of Research-Practice Strategies Julian Adler. 

Bail System Needs Overhaul: NY's Top Judge

WNYC reports on Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman’s call for bail reform and highlights the Red Hook Community Justice Center.

Fighting Poverty and Reducing Jail in Real Time

A Talk Poverty op-ed explores the role of bail reform in addressing poverty and reducing mass incarceration.

New Bail Alternative Means Freedom for Thousands 

WNYC reports on a plan to reform New York City's bail system and highlights Brooklyn Justice Initiatives' supervised release program.

City, DA Pledge $17.8 Million to Expand Supervised Release 

The New York Law Journal outlines New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio's plan to reduce the reliance on pre-trial detention and cash bail in low-level cases, highlighting Brooklyn Justice Initiatives.


Jail in New York City: Evidence-Based Opportunities for Reform

Jail in New York City: Evidence-Based Opportunities for Reform

This report lays out a series of reforms to significantly reduce New York City's jail population, a move that would also cut costs substantially. To identify ways to safely reduce the use of jail, the New York City Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice commissioned research on the path of criminal cases from arrest through bail decisions to sentencing. Among the report’s findings:

Download Summary of Report

To hear a podcast with the report's lead author

Read More

Operating Programs
Most Popular Research


Navigating the Bail Payment System in New York City: Findings and Recommendations

Navigating the Bail Payment System in New York City: Findings and Recommendations

By Elise White, Melissa Labriola, Ashmini Kerodal, Elise Jensen and Michael Rempel

This report documents the bail payment process in New York City courts and correctional facilities and provide 17 recommendations to improve practices. Based on these recommendations, the city is working to launch the first-ever online bail payment system in partnership with the state courts and has begun implementing a number of other solutions detailed here. Approximately 16,000 individuals per year are bailed out of Department of Correction facilities in New York City, in most cases requiring family or friends to make the sometimes lengthy and costly journey to city jails. Continuing to simplify the bail payment process could greatly reduce the number of short jail stays resulting solely from the difficulty of paying bail at arraignment. This report received funding from the Mayor's Office of Criminal Justice.


Moving the Mountains: A Conversation with New York State Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman

Moving the Mountains: A Conversation with New York State Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman

In January of 2015, New York State Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman visited the Center for Court Innovation for a one-on-one conversation with Greg Berman. Topics ranged from the challenges of implementing justice reforms, managing fiscal crises, the value of strongly worded dissents, and how Judge Lippman likes to relax. This is an edited transcript of that wide-ranging conversation.


Brooklyn Justice Intiatives

Brooklyn Justice Intiatives

This Brooklyn Justice Initiatives annual report outlines the first year of a supervised release program that aims to reduce pre-trial detention for misdemeanor defendants in Brooklyn, New York.

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