Providing Collaborative Assistance under the Safety and Justice Challenge

Cook CountyCollaboration among technical assistance providers is a hallmark of the Safety and Justice Challenge (SJC). Beginning November 2017, JMI will coordinate with Justice System Partners (JSP) to support major bail reform efforts in Cook County, Illinois, one of the 20 SJC implementation sites.

In July 2017, Cook County Circuit Court Chief Judge Timothy Evans issued an order “to ensure that no defendant is held in custody prior to trial solely because the defendant cannot afford to post bond…” (General Order No. 18.8A: Procedures for bail hearings and pretrial release). The order—effective for felony cases on September 18, 2017 and misdemeanors January 1, 2018—requires the county’s pretrial services agency to:

  • verify within 48 hours of arrest a defendant’s financial ability to post monetary bail;
  • use a validated risk assessment tool approved by the chief judge to assist the court in determining reasonable bail;
  • provide the court with differentiated supervision options consistent with risk levels identified by the county’s risk assessment instrument; and
  • remind all released defendants of upcoming court appearances.


To support the General Order, Chief Judge Evans revised the court’s Central Bond Court into the Pre-Trial Division, with a newly appointed presiding judge and six new judicial appointments.

With these enhancements in place, JSP sought JMI’s help to determine if the county’s pretrial services agency’s staffing and resource levels could support the General Order and Pre-Trial Division. Under agreement with site officials (including representatives of the Circuit Court; Office of the President, Cook County Board of Commissioners; and the Administrative Office of the Illinois State Courts), JMI staff will review the pretrial agency’s policies and procedures and help determine appropriate staffing and other resource levels under risk assessment, risk management, service provision, and performance metric functions. Central to JMI’s review will be the first analysis of results and outcomes from the county’s use of the PSA Court risk assessment instrument and “decision-making framework” pretrial recommendation scheme. JMI and JSP hope to have all work completed and a final report to the site by mid-January 2018.

JMI is happy to lend its expertise to other SJC service providers and sites and to help participating jurisdictions meet the initiative’s goals to safely reduce unnecessary jail usage, reduce racial and ethnic disparities in detention, and to generate and model practical and credible new approaches to local crime control. We look forward to our work with JSP and future collaborations.

Aimee WickmanProviding Collaborative Assistance under the Safety and Justice Challenge