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AQ Q&A: Richard Aborn on Reducing Pretrial Detention Rates

The hemisphere's high pretrial detention rates have lasting effects on those in jail, their families and their communities—and many of them are innocent.

Richard M. Aborn, president of the consulting firm CAAS LLC, speaks with Americas Quarterly about the consequences of high pretrial detention rates in the Americas, and explores ways of rethinking pretrial detention so that it can be made more equitable.

"People linger in jail for years and years because of their poverty," Aborn says. Poor defendants cannot afford bail or a lawyer who will adequately represent them, even in cases where they are eventually acquitted. The unnecessary time spent in jail comes at a cost to the inmate as well as the greater society—in the form of lost income, lost opportunities, broken family ties, a higher risk of recidivism, exposure to violence and dangerous conditions inside overcrowded prison facilities, and damage to both the prosecution and defense's ability to mount an effective case.  

Aborn says that reforming the prison system doesn't necessarily require new laws. Simple changes can make worlds of difference—such as better record-keeping to streamline the flow of cases, studies that analyze what delays cases from moving to trial,and the development of threat assessment tools that allow the release of prisoners who pose a low risk of flight or harm.

"The period between arrest and trial is a big opportunity for criminal justice systems," Aborn says, "individuals who have been accused of nonviolent offenses can be steered away from a life of crime. If they have a structured series of things to do during that pretrial period, they can get back on the right track." 

Richard Aborn's AQ article, "Prisons: In Jail But Not Sentenced," appears in the Winter 2013 AQ. Access the table of contents.

Watch the interview below.


Interview by Mari Hayman.

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Any opinions expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect those of Americas Quarterly or its publishers.
Tags: Richard Aborn, Pretrial Detention, Prisoners' Rights