Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2023, $1,000,000)
The Pretrial Justice Institute (PJI), through its Willful Flight: Shifting Policy and Culture project, seeks to assess the impact of a Willful Flight standard on bail decision-making—as opposed to the broader Failure to Appear standard that is currently in use—as an alternative strategy to enhance outcomes for those with criminal justice system involvement. PJI hypothesizes that the Willful Flight standard will better align with Constitutional principles and result in greater rates of pretrial release and that people who are released will still see their cases through to resolution without the negative impact of unnecessary incarceration or monetary conditions. This project aims to improve outcomes for justice system-involved individuals.
PJI and its evaluation subrecipient, Strength in Numbers Consulting Group (SINCG), will work with one jurisdiction to develop a Willful Flight standard and collaboratively pilot the implementation policy. The policy will be tested at bail determinations for 15–18 months, and the project team will evaluate the impact on release decisions, court appearance, and public safety outcomes. The project will engage a cross-section of system and community stakeholders, with an emphasis on those with lived experience and marginalized groups. The work products will be an evaluation of the pilot implementation, a final policy and data collection framework, training resources, a Willful Flight Implementation Guide and Toolkit, and a dissemination webinar. In addition to SINCG, subrecipients will include a local project coordinator employed by the county government and a community partner agency involved in court watching and accountability work.
The intended beneficiaries of this work are people facing charges, who are disproportionately people of color. People are likely to be released at greater rates and avoid the long-term negative impacts of pretrial incarceration, including the likelihood of committing future crimes. This will have a ripple effect on their families and communities, who will experience the long-term benefit of people remaining safely at home.