A small fraction of pretrial defendants are dangerous enough to require detention, but Levin argues that the practice harms other defendants, increasing their risk of being re-arrested in the future. "Studies suggest that this is because, as time goes by, defendants lose their jobs and homes, and become disconnected from potential sources of support such as family and community organizations like churches," Levin writes. "Indeed, academic research has found that pretrial detention reduces future employment earnings by 25 percent."
Some states and communities are using new technology to cut down on the ballooning pretrial population, such as text-message reminders of court hearings; those result in a 26 percent increase in hearing attendance, which means fewer defendents being jailed for contempt. Levin also applauds solutions that keep police from arresting people in the first place, such as more training on how to interact with the mentally ill, or having police take someone suffering a drug overdose to a hospital or detox center instead of jail. That can be harder in rural areas. "With their smaller police forces, more limited treatment capacity, and dispersed populations, implementing police diversion in rural areas requires extensive planning and collaboration," Levin writes.
But citizens' ability to access justice shouldn't depend on whether one lives in a rural or urban area, he writes, and hopes rural areas don't get left behind in criminal justice reform measures.