Arnold Foundation Admits the Truth: It Funded Lawsuits to End Money Bail in Houston and Elsewhere

The Arnold Foundation and the “not so secret” mission to end cash bail…

April 27 2018

The Houston-based Laura and John Arnold Foundation has been going around the country promoting its Public Safety Assessment as the gold standard in scientifically sorting defendants into categories and then making recommendations as to what the conditions of release on bail should be.

Curiously, while the tool often recommends detention, the tool never recommends or even contemplates release on a bail bond.  As a result, this “science” is then used to deny a critical constitutional right to bail.

The Arnold Foundation has long claimed that they are simply in the “objective” science business with no skin in the game except to provide judges better information so that they can confirm their “hunches.”

Arnold Foundation Launches Expansion of Public Safety Assessment Tool

The truth and only the truth.  The Arnold Foundation admitted that it is funding the lawsuits to eliminate bail.  In a recent article, it was noted that the Arnold Foundation is a “important ally” in the legal effort to eliminate all financial conditions of bail.

“Most notably, efforts funded by the MacArthur Foundation and the Laura and John Arnold Foundation have forged partnerships with local jurisdictions to change how the “front end” of the criminal justice system works, to reduce the number of people swept into the incarceration pipeline.” – With the Backing of Top Funders, This Group is Taking the Criminal Justice System to Court

There’s been a dramatic surge of new philanthropic giving in this space in recent years, with funders moving strategically to tackle a decentralized challenge. Most notably, efforts funded by the MacArthur Foundation and the Laura and John Arnold Foundation have forged partnerships with local jurisdictions to change how the “front end” of the criminal justice system works, to reduce the number of people swept into the incarceration pipeline.

That’s where Civil Rights Corps comes in, an organization dedicated to challenging criminal justice abuses in court. It was founded just two years ago by a young lawyer named Alec Karakatsanis who teamed up with a more seasoned lawyer and nonprofit leader, Eric Halperin—now the CEO—and is staffed by a small but growing team of mostly attorneys. – Inside Philanthropy, April 24, 2018

Wait a minute, let’s think about this.  The Arnold Foundation goes to Houston and convinces everyone that their neutral version of pretrial risk assessment is something that the County should adopt – which they do – all while funding litigation against the very counties, including Harris County, which it provides services.  Of course, The Civil Rights Corps, the proverbial legal witch hunter for the Arnold Foundation, carries out the marching orders for Arnold by suing the pants off of many jurisdictions.

How any local official can tell the constituents they serve that they have an objective vendor in Arnold is beyond us.  This is a tool that is calibrated to achieve a specific political and legal result, that is now absolutely clear.

We call on the Arnold Foundation to release all donation records immediately so that those who contract with the Arnold Foundation can become aware if Arnold is funding entities that seek to, let’s just say compel, the use of the Arnold Foundation tool when the constitutional right to bail goes away due to the Arnold Foundation’s efforts.

We believe the Arnold Foundation is completely tainted on this issue. What began as perhaps a well-intentioned attempt to improve the pretrial release system in criminal justice under Anne Milgram, former Vice President of Criminal Justice at the Laura and Arnold Foundation, is now nothing more than the think tank behind the wholesale destruction of accountable pretrial release.  Arnold plays architect, validator, and implementor of their risk assessment instrument – while hiding behind an iron clad contract that every jurisdiction that uses the tool must sign.

The Foundation might as well come clean—their goal is to eliminate all financial conditions of bail, and they are spending money directly to make that a reality.  Arnold needs to stop snowing over local officials with their “awe-shucks, we’re just data scientists” routine.  Obviously, this completely calls into question the objectivity of the tool itself, and should leave public officials thinking, what we have gotten ourselves into?  A debacle, that’s what.

The Arnold Foundation has demonstrated an intent to deny the right to bail, and is therefore a co-conspirator in the attempt to trammel the constitutional right to bail for all Americans.

As we continue to expose this tainted Foundation, who is compiling records on millions of Americans with no oversight, we would encourage local officials to start asking hard questions. In Harris County, Texas, where the County had to pay $7 million to defend a lawsuit that their “free vendor” literally funded against them, we’re not sure they would be too happy with such a conflict of interest.

With the Arnold Foundation recently announcing the addition of over 200 more jurisdictions to participate in their “Safety and Justice Challenge,” how many more lawsuits will we see? How many more millions of records will Arnold compile at their New York clearinghouse of criminal information? How many more victims of violence will see their attacker freed on nothing more than just a “promise” to appear?

Virginia: Richmond Commonwealth Attorney Herring: Bye-Bye Constitutional Right to Bail, Hello Preventative Detention/Bail Reform

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