Professor Hosts Roundtable on Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Bail and Pretrial Detention


On November 12, 2015, the Pretrial Justice Initiative at American University Washington College of Law hosted an invitation-only roundtable discussion, which brought together leading bail reform advocates, civil rights lawyers, community organizers, and representatives from state and federal government agencies to discuss racial and ethnic disparities in bail and pretrial detention. 

The conference featured Vanita Gupta, head of the United States Department of Justice Civil Rights Division, as the keynote speaker.  Veteran civil rights advocate, Wade Henderson, head of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, gave a very powerful presentation to close the discussion.

"There is a wealth of research showing that African American and Latino defendants receive higher bail amounts, and are subjected to pretrial detention at a higher rate than similarly-situated white arrestees,” said Professor Cynthia Jones, executive director of the project and a longtime advocate for criminal justice reform. “We must address this inequity in order to make our criminal justice system fair for all of the accused and unconvicted."

Over the course of last year, Professor Jones has written about the racial and ethnic disparities in bail and met with civil rights groups to encourage them to incorporate bail reform into their organization’s criminal justice reform agenda.

Her 2013 law review article entitled “Give Us Free”: Eliminating Racial Disparities in Bail Determinations, played a pivotal role in bail reform efforts in New Jersey and has been cited by bail reform advocates in several jurisdictions.

In discussing her article, Professor Jones stated:

“Bail practices across the country contribute to mass incarceration, fuel the school to prison pipeline and produce racial and ethnic disparities throughout the entire criminal justice system.” 

Civil rights organizations in attendance included Latino Justice PRLDEF, the ACLU Criminal Law Reform Project, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, the National Lawyer’s Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, the Brennan Center, the Baltimore NAACP Criminal Justice Committee, and Color of Change.  Bail reform advocates were represented by the Pretrial Justice Institute, the National Association of Pretrial Services Agencies, the D.C. Pretrial Services Agency, Drug Policy Alliance of New Jersey, and Equal Justice Under Law. 

Throughout the program, bail reform advocates and civil rights advocates promised to work together to address the injustices in the bail process.


The Pretrial Justice Initiative is a project to facilitate collaboration between civil rights and bail reform advocates to address racial and ethnic disparities in bail.  The project was created by Professor Jones in 2014, and was made possible through a partnership between the Public Welfare Foundation and the Criminal Justice Practice and Policy Institute at the American University Washington College of Law.