The North Carolina General Statutes require the senior resident superior court judge to issue a local bail policy, in consultation with the chief district court judge or judges. G.S. 15A-535(a). At the Criminal Justice Innovation Lab, we’ve had a lot of requests for help updating these policies. And we understand why. Doing this work is no easy matter, given that North Carolina law includes a ton of statutory rules and exceptions and areas for discretionary policy choices. Back in the Spring of 2021, we issued the first version of the Model Policy. Recently we posted the latest version. It’s online here, as the first item under “Implement.”
What’s new with this version? This version incorporates some small statutory changes and a bunch of new sample tools. We also made a formatting change, splitting out the Appendix, which contains sample tools, colloquies and related material, into a separate document that you can link to from the Model Policy. More on that in a minute.
The Model Policy is designed to be a template for revising local bail policies. It includes all of the statutory rules and exceptions and sets out areas for discretionary policy choices, detailing options in explanatory notes and providing alternative language to accommodate a range of policy decisions. When it comes to those discretionary policy decisions we are – as always – policy neutral. That means that we’ve set out alternatives and it’s up to you to choose which one works best for your community.
Here’s an overview of the Model Policy’s sections:
- Sections I & II contain introductory provisions. They include a number of discretionary issues, but you’ll likely move quickly through them.
- Section III is the core of the policy—this is where you’ll decide things like: whether you want to adopt new tools to help magistrates and/or judges navigate bail decisions; how judicial officials should handle ability to pay determinations; and whether to require written findings of certain bail decisions. Because of that, this section likely will take the most time to tailor to local needs, resources, and policy choices. If you’re working with others on the revisions, plan to devote a good bit of time to this section.
- Sections IV though VII contain all of the special statutory exceptions. There are some choices to be made in these sections but they’re largely a catalogue of the legal rules. These sections are long but in terms of time, should go quickly in your revision process.
- Section VIII provides options for judicial review of bail conditions. Some jurisdictions opt to address these issues in the local bail policy; others do so by separate administrative order. Either way, this section provides the legal guardrails for you but, as with all sections, leaves the choices to you.
- Section IX links you to the Phase 1 report from the North Carolina Court Appearance Project. That report contains a bevy of discrete, actionable policy initiatives to promote court appearances and improve responses to missed court dates when they occur.
- Sections X through XIX contain a collection of statutory and discretionary issues. If you’re using the Model Policy to revise local policy, you’ll likely move very quickly through this material.
- As noted, the Appendix is now a stand-alone document that you can link to from the Model Policy. But if you want to skip ahead, it’s here. The big change in the Appendix is that we’ve included many more sample tools, processes, and forms for pretrial decision-making that have been developed by your colleagues across diverse jurisdictions, including urban, suburban and rural jurisdictions.
The original Model Policy benefited from feedback provided by District and Superior Court Judges, Elected District Attorneys, Public Defenders and others. If you have suggestions for improving the Model Policy, please reach out─we’d love to hear from you!
We recently updated our Measuring Justice Dashboard with a new metric on court non-appearance. As with all Dashboard metrics, you can explore the data at the state and county level. Here’s a quick summary of what you’ll see on the Dashboard’s new metric. But if you want to get right to it, click here to access the Dashboard directly.
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As blog readers know, the UNC School of Government Criminal Justice Innovation Lab has been developing a Measuring Justice Dashboard. Last year we released our Dashboard first metrics: Citation v. Arrest and Summons v. Warrant. We recently released a new Dashboard metric: Criminal Charging. In this post I’ll give some highlights of that tool. But in case you want to get right to it, you can access the Dashboard from the Lab’s web page (https://cjil.sog.unc.edu/); from the main page, click on “Measuring Justice.”
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The UNC School of Government Criminal Justice Innovation Lab recently launched the first version of its new Measuring Justice Dashboard. Here’s some information about our new data visualization tool.
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The North Carolina General Statutes require the senior resident superior court judge to, in consultation with the chief district court judge or judges, issue a local bail policy. G.S. 15A-535(a). But doing so is no easy matter given the many statutory rules and exceptions and areas for discretionary policy choices. Christopher Tyner and I have tried to facilitate that task, with a North Carolina Model Local Bail Policy. We first issued the Model Policy in the Spring and we just posted an updated version, incorporating the latest legislative changes to the state’s bail statutes. The Model Policy can be found here; it’s the first item under “Implement.” Read on for details.
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I recently posted, on the UNC School of Government Criminal Justice Innovation Lab website, a model implementation plan designed to help stakeholders comply with S.L. 2021-138. That law requires first appearances for all in-custody defendants within 72 hours after the defendant is taken into custody or at the first regular session of district court in the county, whichever occurs first. The new law becomes effective December 1, 2021 and applies to criminal processes served on or after that date. Continue reading →
We recently invited North Carolina jurisdictions to apply to participate in the NC Court Appearance Project. The project is supported by the UNC School of Government Criminal Justice Innovation Lab and The Pew Charitable Trusts. We’re excited to announce our three project sites: New Hanover, Orange, and Robeson Counties. We will be supporting stakeholders in these jurisdictions as they examine the scope and impact of missed court dates and explore ways to improve court appearance rates and responses to missed court dates. Each site has a project team composed of local judges, the DA, the Public Defender or a defense representative, the sheriff, the clerk of court and other officials. Because we’re interested to help stakeholders explore solutions that can work across diverse jurisdictions, we’re happy to have participation from an urban county, a suburban county, and a rural county. Thanks to everyone that applied—we wish we could have included all of you! Continue reading →
The UNC School of Government Criminal Justice Innovation Lab and The Pew Charitable Trusts and invite North Carolina jurisdictions to apply to participate in the NC Court Appearance Project. Pew and the Lab will offer free technical assistance for up to three North Carolina jurisdictions interested in examining the scope and impact of missed court dates and exploring ways to improve court appearance rates and responses to missed court dates. Because Pew and the Lab adhere to a non-partisan, evidence-based approach to criminal justice policy, this project will be grounded in data, research, and stakeholder collaboration and priorities.
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During the COVID-19 pandemic, criminal court systems moved to virtual proceedings to maintain essential court operations while minimizing the spread of COVID-19. To understand more about that transition and the lessons it holds for the future, we surveyed North Carolina trial judges, prosecutors, defenders, and clerks of court about virtual court. Our survey included questions about changes to court proceedings during the pandemic, the benefits of and concerns about virtual court, best practice suggestions for virtual proceedings, support for various virtual proceedings, experiences with using various technology platforms, and other aspects of virtual proceedings. We received responses from 182 people (Figure 1) from all 100 North Carolina counties.
Figure 1. Survey Respondents’ Current Role in the Criminal Justice System
Our full report is available here. In this post we summarize some top line results.
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In late 2020 and early 2021, stakeholders in Orange County, North Carolina implemented new bail reform initiatives. The new initiatives build on earlier efforts. Specifically, stakeholders already had funded a county pretrial services program; adopted an empirical risk assessment tool to inform judges’ pretrial decision-making; established a “strike order court,” affording relief from court non-appearances in appropriate cases; instituted pre-arrest diversion with law enforcement support; and established specialized courts to more effectively address the needs of those who enter the criminal justice system because of underlying issues such as poverty, homelessness, substance use, and mental health concerns. Additionally, local police departments and the sheriff’s office had implemented new policing practices, such as citation in lieu of arrest, to promote the county’s pretrial goals. And in 2018, the Orange County Board of County Commissioners approved a resolution supporting the 3DaysCount initiative, a national effort to improve community safety by applying common sense solutions to pretrial justice issues. Notwithstanding these efforts and actions and the statutory mandate that conditions other than secured bond must be imposed unless the judicial official finds certain factors, G.S. 15A-534(b), data showed that secured bonds continued to be the most common condition of pretrial release used in the county, even in misdemeanor cases. Stakeholders also reported concerns that low-risk individuals were being unnecessarily detained pretrial on money bonds they could not pay. Continue reading →