Arnold Ventures Commits $39 Million to Pretrial Justice Initiatives

Arnold Ventures Commits $39 Million to Pretrial Justice Initiatives

Arnold Ventures, the restructured limited-liability company formerly known as the Laura and John Arnold Foundation (LJAF), has announced a new partnership with research, technical assistance, policy, and advocacy organizations working to improve pretrial justice in the United States. 

Launched with grants totaling $39 million, the National Partnership for Pretrial Justice is a new community of practice involving more than two dozen Arnold Ventures grantees working to reduce unnecessary and unjust detention through prosecutor, public defender, case processing, and rural jail reform in more than thirty-five states. With a total of $48 million in new and existing grants, the partnership represents one of the most significant investments the organization has made in criminal justice reform since it first began investing in the area in 2011. 

In announcing the partnership, Arnold Ventures also released a Statement of Principles on Pretrial Justice outlining its pretrial grant investments and policy objectives — and its belief that Americans must protect the presumption of innocence and only hold people charged with the most serious offenses in pretrial detention; that money bail obscures legally required risk analyses, traps people in jail, and contributes to unconscionable racial and economic disparities in our justice system; and that validated pretrial risk assessments can support more objective and consistent judicial decision making.

Members of the partnership include the Center for Effective Public Policy, which will provide training and implementation assistance for pretrial improvement projects over five years; the Public Safety Lab at New York University, which will study the impacts of bail, pretrial detention, and counsel practices on defendant-level outcomes across more than a thousand counties; the Center for Court Innovation, which is studying whether racial disparities exist in data-driven risk assessment models, and, if so, will address ways to reduce those disparities; the Vera Institute of Justice, which will create a rural jails research and policy network featuring two university-based hubs to better understand the drivers of rural jail growth; and the National Center for State Courts, which is conducting research, establishing benchmarks, and providing guidance to state courts about how best to improve the efficiency of criminal case processing.

"The presumption of innocence is a core American value that is too often suppressed or ignored in our pretrial justice system. Every year, far too many Americans are locked up in jails simply because they can’t pay for their freedom," said Jeremy Travis, executive vice president of criminal justice at Arnold Ventures. "And too often, efforts to find solutions are either siloed or contentious in ways that impede reform. We want to break down the barriers that have fragmented well-meaning advocacy to build a thoughtful, research-driven community with shared goals and values."