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County Solutions and Innovation Blog​​
April 15
BJA Grant to Provide Funding for Counties to Improve Pretrial Justice Systems

Written by Kathy Rowings, NACo Justice Associate.
The Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) recently announced that is it seeking applications for its Smart Pretrial Demonstration Initiative (SPDI). The SPDI grant program seeks to build upon analysis-driven, evidence-based pretrial justice by encouraging local jurisdictions to effectively implement risk assessment and appropriate supervision and/or diversion strategies targeting pretrial outcomes within their jurisdictions. Applications are due by 11:59 p.m. eastern time on May 27, 2014.  Click here to view the solicitation.

Leading up to the application deadline, NACo, in partnership with BJA and the Pretrial Justice Institute, will provide assistance in understanding the key elements of the project and the application process. An informational video will be available on April 22, and Q&A sessions will be held on April 29 and May 6, from 2:00pm – 3:00pm EST, to answer any questions about the application process and the project.

Register below for one of the Q&A sessions:
Tue, Apr 29, 2014 2:00 PM - 3:00 PM EDT
Tue, May 6, 2014 2:00 PM - 3:00 PM EDT

Counties spend $9 billion each year housing inmates in their jails. More than half of these inmates are in jail awaiting trial, not because of the seriousness of the crimes they’re accused of but simply because they cannot pay their bond. Only 5 percent of arrestees end up in prison – the vast majority of those in jail are either found innocent or are released once they plead guilty.  Individuals kept in jail pretrial, as compared to those who are released pretrial, are:

  • More likely to be sentenced to jail or prison;
  • More likely to receive a longer sentence; and
  • More likely to reoffend.

By using available “risk assessment” tools, counties can assess a defendant’s risk level of reoffending or failing to appear in court and release those who are not high-risk.  This saves money and improves outcomes. As Attorney General Eric Holder has said of low-risk defendants, “[a]lmost all of these individuals could be released and supervised in their communities – and allowed to pursue and maintain employment and participate in educational opportunities and their normal family lives – without risk of endangering their fellow citizens or fleeing from justice.”

The BJA’s Smart Pretrial Demonstration Initiative will test the cost savings and public safety enhancements that can be achieved when jurisdictions move to a pretrial model that uses risk assessment to inform decisionmaking and employs improved risk management strategies (supervision and diversion). SPDI sites selected under this grant announcement will work with a BJA-supported researcher to measure their pretrial outcomes (pretrial rearrests and failure to appear) and associated pretrial justice costs.

To learn more about risk assessments and other pretrial justice reforms, please visit NACo’s Pretrial Justice Resource page.  The informational video and information about the Q&A sessions will be posted here.  This webpage also contains links to past publications, webinars, articles and workshops, risk assessment tools and will feature a series of county profiles designed to share the experiences of select counties throughout the country.

Contact Kathy Rowings at or 202.942.4279 with any questions. 


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