Austin — Today, the Texas Public Policy Foundation (TPPF) announced research on the growth of rural pretrial incarceration. Authored by Marc Levin, vice president of criminal justice policy at TPPF, and Michael Haugen, policy analyst in TPPF’s Center for Effective Justice and its Right on Crime initiative, Open Roads and Overflowing Jails: Addressing High Rates of Rural Pretrial Incarceration, offers solutions to safely reduce the population of pretrial defendants in rural areas of the country.   
 
“Our research shows that rural pretrial incarceration has grown more than 400 percent since 1970,” said Levin. “Possible reasons include the epidemic of opioids and other drugs, the inability of many defendants to afford high bail amounts, the reluctance of judges to release defendants on their own recognizance, and the lack of accessible treatment alternatives. Fortunately, our paper provides many solutions that policymakers can act on to ensure constitutional rights while also promoting public safety and reducing the burden on taxpayers. These solutions include greater use of proven police diversion programs that connect defendants with drug and mental health treatment and the use of validated pretrial risk assessment instruments to identify defendants who do not endanger the public but are languishing in jail solely because they cannot afford bail.”
 
"As Supreme Court precedent has held, detention in jail before trial is meant to be a 'carefully limited' exemption to pretrial liberty,” said Haugen. “However, over four decades of experience has told us that this hasn't been the practice nationwide, as pretrial jail populations have skyrocketed since 1970, particularly in rural jurisdictions. 'Open Roads and Overflowing Jails' puts the growth of jails in often-forgotten rural areas into perspective, and offers a bevy of conservative solutions that can enhance pretrial liberty while protecting public safety and ensuring a defendant's appearance in court."

The full research paper may be found here.

For more information or to request an interview, please contact Sarah Silberstein at ssilberstein@texaspolicy.com or 512-472-2700.    

The Texas Public Policy Foundation is a non-profit free-market research institute based in Austin that aims to foster human flourishing by protecting and promoting liberty, opportunity, and personal responsibility.

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