CJA Release Assessment

A Data-Driven Tool to Help Reduce Pretrial Incarceration – Updating the CJA Release Assessment.

In 2017, New York City announced its ambitious plan to make the Rikers Island jail complex “smaller, safer, and fairer”. Over the past three years, Crime Lab has been helping the City do just that – by building a data-driven tool that can help reduce pretrial incarceration without compromising other goals of the justice system. 

In partnership with Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice, the Criminal Justice Agency, Luminosity, and others, Crime Lab has leveraged the latest data science to build a tool called the CJA Release Assessment. The CJA Release Assessment helps judges better identify the vast majority of low-risk defendants who can be released without bail or other pretrial conditions. 

The attached Research Report includes more details about how the Release Assessment is expected to perform, including the following highlights: 

  • In the past, judges have released defendants without any pretrial conditions 65% of the time. The updated CJA Release Assessment would recommend 89% of defendants for release. 
  • And because of the increased accuracy of this data-driven tool, the CJA Release Assessment can recommend far more defendants for release without any projected increase in missed court appearances. 
  • Finally, there have historically been disparities in how judges make release decisions by the defendant’s race. However, the CJA Release Assessment makes release recommendations in a way that can help reduce these disparities, with the goal of creating a more equitable pretrial system. 

In sum, the CJA Release Assessment has the potential to help thousands of New Yorkers – in particular, people of color – avoid unnecessary pretrial incarceration at Rikers Island.

To learn more about this tool, see the below research report by the Crime Lab and our partners at Luminosity.