Americans Favor Expanded Pretrial Release, Limited Use of Jail

Pew-Charitable-TrustsThe policies and practices that govern arrest, pretrial release, detention in jail, and trial timelines have far-reaching effects, not only on people accused of crimes but also on victims, families, and communities. This national survey from The Pew Charitable Trusts provides information about how the public thinks pretrial justice should work and finds substantial support for policies and decisions that limit the use of pretrial detention. Specifically, large majorities think jail should never be used for minor offenses, that those charged with misdemeanors and nonviolent offenses should remain in their communities while awaiting trial, and that even more serious cases, including some violent charges, can be handled without detention. These positions generally hold across political parties and households with crime victims or members of law enforcement, and suggest that police, judges, and policymakers should think critically about the use of jail for those awaiting trial and should expand and prioritize pretrial release.