Why Reform the Criminal Justice System? The criminal justice system is a complex web of agencies—law enforcement, prosecution, defense, courts, pretrial, probation and/or parole, prison, jail, treatment, and other organizations. Reforming the system is difficult since changing one part of the system can affect other parts of the system—typically resulting in a number of unintended consequences (and sometimes adverse effects). 1 in 5 adults in the US have been involved in the justice system, and involvement in the system affects families and communities. This series is about reforms—what needs reforming? Why reform? And how can the reforms justice improve justice and social equity?
A simple fact is what happens during pretrial affects the sentence of individuals. Those that are detained pretrial—regardless of whether they are detained due to lack of money for bail or bond or due to poor policies that do not allow for release on own recognizance—are more likely to get a prison/jail sentence. The front end of the justice system, from arrest to adjudication, is in need of reform to ensure that public safety goals are met. Right now, the front end discriminates against those that are improvished, and those that do not have the resources for a private attorney. Pretrial release reform is top of the list of efforts to make sustained change in how we use the criminal justice system.