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ERIC Number: EJ1179183
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2018
Pages: 22
Abstractor: As Provided
ISSN: ISSN-1054-8289
Jails and Local Justice System Reform: Overview and Recommendations
Copp, Jennifer E.; Bales, William D.
Future of Children, v28 n1 p103-124 Spr 2018
Over the past three decades, the number of people housed in local jails has more than tripled. Yet when it comes to reforming the nation's incarceration policies, write Jennifer Copp and William Bales, researchers, policymakers, and the public alike have focused almost exclusively on state and federal prisons. If you took a snapshot on a single day, the prison population would far exceed the population of local jails. But, the authors show, compared to prisons, roughly 18 times more people are admitted to and released from jails every year. Furthermore, about two-thirds of jail inmates have yet to be convicted of a crime, and they often languish behind bars only because they can't afford to pay bail. And although jails are intended for adults, on any given day roughly 4,000 young people under age 18 are confined in local jails. In this article, Copp and Bales provide a broad overview of US jails, including facilities and operations, characteristics of inmates, and the conditions of confinement, and they make a number of suggestions for policy and practice. In particular, they argue that the justice system should slash the use of money bail, which disproportionately harms the poor and minorities. Specifically, they recommend that jurisdictions adopt validated risk assessment tools to help make decisions about who should and shouldn't be detained before trial; expand pretrial services that can, among other things, monitor compliance with release conditions; divert more people away from the criminal justice system; consider alternatives to jail, such as probation, for convicted offenders; and expedite case processing to decrease the time to trial and thus the overall length of jail stays.
Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University and The Brookings Institution. 267 Wallace Hall, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ 08544. Tel: 609-258-6979; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Evaluative
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Grant or Contract Numbers: N/A