Chief Defender on PJI Reversal on Risk Assessment Tools


February 7, 2020
George Jackson  |  267.765.6768  |

PHILADELPHIA–“The Defender Association of Philadelphia would like to applaud the Pretrial Justice Institute (PJI) for the public and courageous reversal of their previous position on pre-trial risk assessment tools. As they noted in their latest position paper, these tools ‘can no longer be a part of our solution for building equitable pre-trial justice systems.

“Rather than accomplish their stated goal of reducing the pretrial prison populations, the data used in RAT reinforce the justice system’s existing class and racial biases. The Defender Association has been consistent in our opposition to the use of these tools. Last spring we submitted an alternative proposal to RAT to the District Attorney, City Council and the First Judicial District (FJD); and DA [Larry] Krasner and I disavowed the use of  RAT in a letter to FJD.  While some were perplexed by our stance at the time, the PJI’s acknowledgment of the inherent racial bias of the tool is a validation of our position.

“In order to effect real change, and develop reforms that work, we need to truly listen to the voices of the people and neighborhoods who most often come into contact with our justice system. That’s why the Defender invests resources to support our city’s participatory defense hubs, our pre-entry coalition, and other community partnerships. We have seen measurable improvements in outcomes when our citizens are a part of the process.

“It is truly heartening that the PJI is beginning to realize the value and impact of these community voices.”

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