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Why Pretrial Detention May Be Worse for Public Safety

As New York weighs tightening restrictions on arrested individuals, research shows holding people before trial increases the chances they will commit another offense. 

A participant holds an End Pretrial Detention sign at a rally in Rikers Island, New York, on June 19, 2020. Civil rights and racial justice leaders have been calling for reforms to bail laws across the U.S. 

A participant holds an End Pretrial Detention sign at a rally in Rikers Island, New York, on June 19, 2020. Civil rights and racial justice leaders have been calling for reforms to bail laws across the U.S. 

Photographer: Erik McGregor/LightRocket via Getty Images

As New York state and city officials weigh tightening restrictions on arrested individuals awaiting trial, a new study shows that doing so could be worse for public safety in the long run. 

Individuals held in jail pretrial are more likely to be rearrested than people who are released, and the odds they’ll commit a new offense increase the longer they are incarcerated, according to a study commissioned by Arnold Ventures, a philanthropic organization founded by billionaires Laura and John Arnold. The study tracked nearly 1.5 million people who were booked into a jail in Kentucky over roughly a decade, making it one of the largest of its kind and building on more than 100 studies that have come to similar findings.