Reducing pretrial populations

The pretrial population of defendants has significantly increased—particularly in rural areas of the country. Jails in smaller jurisdictions are responsible for an outsized share of jail population growth.

Indeed, from 1970 to 2014, jail populations grew by almost sevenfold in small counties but only threefold in large counties. This paper explores why this growth may have occurred and makes numerous recommendations reducing pretrial populations, particularly in rural America.

Respondents to a nationally representative survey, conducted for The Pew Charitable Trusts by a bipartisan team of firms, Benenson Strategy Group and GS Strategy Group, expressed support for a pretrial justice system that prioritizes release over detention and employs a range of options to manage risks.