Institute of Politics

Criminal Justice

In the fall of 2015, County Executive Rich Fitzgerald asked the Institute to assemble a group of distinguished civic leaders to examine ways to transform the county’s criminal justice system into a “fairer and less costly [institution], without compromising public safety.” The Institute subsequently convened the Criminal Justice Task Force, consisting of 40 regional figures in the fields of criminal justice, academia, and community leadership; Mark Nordenberg, Chair of the Institute of Politics and Chancellor Emeritus, University of Pittsburgh, and Fred Thieman, The Henry Buhl Jr. Chair for Civic Leadership, The Buhl Foundation served as the cochairs of the task force. Task force members met monthly for one year, working with national consultants to examine all aspects of the criminal justice system, including policing, pre-trial services, prosecution and defense, imprisonment, and courts and probation.

This collaborative examination and deliberation resulted in the development of the Institute’s report: “Criminal Justice in the 21st Century: Improving Incarceration Policies and Practices in Allegheny County.” Guided by six ethical principles, the report makes a series of recommendations designed to ensure the fairness and cost-effectiveness of the county’s criminal justice system while maintaining a commitment to public safety. The report examines the dramatic growth of national and local incarceration rates in recent decades even as crime rates have fallen, and highlights the large number of individuals detained prior to trial through the setting of monetary bonds, which often keep low-risk defendants behind bars. The Institute’s report also addresses the criminal justice system’s disproportionate impact on Black and Latino populations and people living in poverty. Building upon improvements already achieved by criminal justice professionals in Allegheny County, the task force’s report advances recommendations to create a fairer and more equitable system that allocates taxpayer dollars efficiently, effectively, and humanely, without compromising public safety.


Membership

Resource Information

News Coverage

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

  • Report: Too many being sent to Allegheny County Jail (November 16, 2016) – Link
  • When jail fails: The push for alternatives must get stronger (November 20, 2016) – Link
  • Use resources to point people in the right direction (November 23, 2016) – Link

WESA

  • Policy Group Calls for Curtailed Use of Bail In Allegheny County (November 17, 2016) - Link

Associated Press

  • The Washington Times (November 17, 2016) (Washington, DC) – Link  
  • Tribune Review (November 17, 2016) – Link  
  • Observer Reporter (November 17, 2016) (Washington, PA) – Link

The Pitt News

  • Local prison system in dire need of reform (November 17, 2016) – Link
  • Report shows rise in inmates, more black inmates in Allegheny County Jail (November 17, 2016) – Link  

Pittsburgh Business Times

  • Mark Nordenberg: Making criminal justice fairer, less costly (November 17, 2016) - Link

Pittsburgh Courier

  • Report: Too many low risk inmates jailed (November 23, 2016) - Link
  • Promote service, not sentencing…Where is the arrest diversion program? (December 2, 2016) – Link