This Business & Legal Toolkit for Returning Citizen Entrepreneurs is part of a multi-year action research project of the GW Law School Small Business & Community Economic Development Clinic (Clinic).1 The Clinic provides free legal services to carefully selected small and microbusinesses, non-profit organizations, artists, and social entrepreneurs.
Since August of 2020, the Movement Lawyering Clinic (“the Clinic”) at Howard University
School of Law has observed bond hearings in Prince George’s County District Court. The impetus
of this project came from reports and a lawsuit from Civil Rights Corps, alleging that PG County’s
jail was overcrowded, unsanitary, at risk of a COVID-19 breakout, and teeming with pre-trial
defendants, many who are charged with non-violent crimes.1 The Clinic decided to observe PG
County bond hearings to determine the extent of pre-trial detention in the County, or more
specifically, who was being put in pre-trial detention and why.
Thirty-one states and the federal government incarcerated 116,000 people in private prisons in 2019, representing 8% of the total state and federal prison population.
Can it really be true that most people in jail are being held before trial? And how much of mass incarceration is a result of the war on drugs? These questions are harder to answer than you might think, because our country’s systems of confinement are so fragmented. The various government agencies involved in the justice system collect a lot of critical data, but it is not designed to help policymakers or the public understand what’s going on. As public support for criminal justice reform continues to build, however, it’s more important than ever that we get the facts straight and understand the big picture.