Mapping Pretrial Injustice:


In thousands of communities across the United States, courts are embedding risk assessment tools into high-stakes pretrial incarceration, supervision, and release decisions. The way these tools are used and the biases they can embody are usually not obvious to the public.

Media Mobilizing Project and MediaJustice created this website, a #NoDigitalPrisons project, as a tool for organizers seeking pretrial decarceration. Our research with hundreds of jurisdictions across the country clarifies how and where these risk assessments are used, and challenges the notion that risk assessments offer real solutions to pretrial incarceration.

What's the deal?

What are Risk Assessment Tools?

Explore the basics of risk assessment tools (RATs): what RATs are and how and why these tools are supposed to work.

Understand why many jurisdictions use RATs in the pretrial setting and why community members are concerned about the bias they can embed in pretrial decision-making.

The Danger

Pretrial risk assessment tools (RATs) can embed racial, gender, and economic bias into the factors they use and the predictions they produce, but they frame those predictions as “science.” RATs have the capacity to vastly over-inflate and over-predict risk.

In order to organize effectively to end pretrial incarceration, we need to understand what goes into these tools and how they impact pretrial decisions.

The Impact

Risk assessment tools (RATs) fold into the pretrial process in different ways, depending on jurisdiction. Who RATs assess, who does the assessing, when RATs are embedded into the pretrial systems, and the impact RATs have on bail, pretrial release, and e-carceration all vary from place to place.

Supporters of RATs claim RATs will reduce both pretrial jail populations and racial disparities in pretrial detention. But independent studies have shown mixed results, and RATs are not always used as intended.

National Landscape

States and counties are embedding pretrial risk assessments into pretrial decision-making all over the country. As of Fall 2019, our research found at least one pretrial tool in use in every state except Massachusetts, Arkansas, Wyoming, and Mississippi.

Look for your state or county in the map below, then click on the link for more information. You’ll be able to get access to the master spreadsheet with more information on what we learned about RATs and pretrial systems in your county, and to find our summaries of interviews with some pretrial decision-makers nationwide.

image/svg+xml Map of Counties in the USA 2018-11-04 U.S. Census Bureau, Abe.suleiman, Lokal_Profil