1st Edition

Incarceration without Conviction Pretrial Detention and the Erosion of Innocence in American Criminal Justice

By Mikaela Rabinowitz Copyright 2021
    130 Pages
    by Routledge

    130 Pages
    by Routledge

    Incarceration Without Conviction addresses an understudied fairness flaw in the criminal justice system. On any given day, approximately 500,000 Americans are in pretrial detention in the US, held in local jails not because they are considered a flight or public safety risk, but because they are poor and cannot afford bail or a bail bond. Over the course of a year, millions of Americans cycle through local jails, most there for anywhere from a few days to a few weeks. These individuals are disproportionately Black and poor.

    This book draws on extensive legal data to highlight the ways in which pretrial detention drives guilty pleas and thus fuels mass incarceration--and the disproportionate impact on Black Americans. It shows the myriad harms that being detained wreaks on people’s lives and well-being, regardless of whether or not those who are detained are ever convicted. Rabinowitz argues that pretrial detention undermines the presumption of innocence in the American criminal justice system and, in so doing, erodes the very meaning of innocence.

    1. Introduction
    2. “The mechanics of the guilty plea”
    3. “But what will become of the innocent?”
    4. “Someone has to pay a price…”
    5. “The pains of imprisonment”
    6. Looking forward
    Appendix A: Notes on Quantitative Methodology


    Mikaela Rabinowitz is the Director of Data, Research, and Analytics at the San Francisco District Attorney's Office, which does not seek to detain people using cash bail. She has a PhD in Sociology from Northwestern University and a BA in African American Studies from Columbia University.

    Any random middle schooler can likely recite the mantra that individuals are "innocent until proven guilty." Incarceration without Conviction shatters that myth and shows the devastating consequences of pre-trial detention, especially for Black people. Moving between legal theory, first-hand accounts of incarceration, and quantitative analyses of case outcomes, Rabinowitz offers a comprehensive yet compact look at the injustices in our criminal legal system. Incarceration without Conviction importantly strips readers of the innocence of not knowing what is happening in our names.

    Mary Pattillo, author of Black on the Block: The Politics of Race and Class in the City

    Incarceration without Conviction makes an essential contribution to our understanding of mass incarceration. As Rabinowitz compellingly demonstrates, pretrial detention is both a key driver of imprisonment and the cause of many of the same collateral consequences.  This book is essential reading for students and scholars concerned about the impact of pretrial detention in the U.S. justice system.

    John Hagan, John D. MacArthur Professor of Sociology and Law at Northwestern University

    In Incarceration without Conviction, Mikaela Rabinowitz challenges us to squarely face the issue of whether innocence does or doesn't matter in the modern day criminal legal system. With pretrial detention leading so directly to convictions, and harsh incarceration experiences visited upon her interviewees even if they're acquitted, Rabinowitz's questions about the value of America's vaunted presumption of innocence are vital to confront.

    Vincent Schiraldi, Senior Research Scientist at the Columbia School of Social Work and Co-Director of the Columbia Justice Lab