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Remarks of Mary Lou Leary, Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General
Office of Justice Programs

New Orleans Pretrial Release Meeting

Wednesday, November 3, 2010
New Orleans, LA

       Thank you, Jim [Letten]. We really appreciate you hosting us all today. You have been essential to the Justice Department's efforts in New Orleans, and we are grateful for your work.

       I must start by saying that I'm impressed to see so many critical stakeholders at one table. It's not often that you see so many elements of government ready to work together. In D.C., that would draw national media attention.

       We're thrilled to have Mayor Landrieu with us today, and I'll have the pleasure of introducing him shortly. I'd also like to welcome Arnie Fielkow, President of the City Council, and Councilmember Susan Guidry. Chief Serpas and Sheriff Gusman, all of us at DOJ know just how much you have on your plates, so we appreciate you being here today. I'd also like to welcome Justice Bernette Johnson of the Louisiana Supreme Court, Criminal District Court Chief Judge Julian Parker, Judge Terry Alarcon, and Magistrate Gerald Hansen. It's also great to see District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro here, as well as Chief Defender Derwyn Bunton. Finally, Mike Cowan, the President of the Metropolitan Crime Commission, is representing some of our most important stakeholders - the community.

       Today, we launch a vital initiative in a larger effort to reform New Orleans' criminal justice system. As you all know too well, the system has long faced challenges that were both magnified and exacerbated by Hurricane Katrina, and most recently, by the BP Oil Spill. Now, more than ever, New Orleans must devise comprehensive responses to criminal justice that will decrease violent crime rates and improve public safety.

       You are already well on your way. And you have the full support of this Justice Department in everything you are doing - from the reforms to the police department to the determination of the appropriate jail size to, of course, the institution of a pretrial system.

       DOJ is dedicating our resources to help you create a more equitable criminal justice system and safer communities. We are not just here for today; we are here for the long haul. Most importantly, we are here to listen to you, learn from you, and respond to your needs.

       Together, we are achieving another major milestone today. DOJ has awarded the Vera Institute of Justice a planning and implementation grant to develop a pretrial release system.

       Leaders in justice system reform and best practices, Vera and the Pretrial Justice Institute will partner to plan a system, pilot that system, and collect data on that system. In every step of the process, they will carefully consider what will work best here in New Orleans - putting local needs first.

       This competitive grant was awarded as part of our Bureau of Justice Assistance's field-initiated grant program. We know that projects and innovations that come from the field best reflect the needs of the professionals on the ground, and we are proud to support them.

       Of course, we realize that building a system from the ground up will be challenging. We have to construct a solid foundation and that will take time - and hard work. But DOJ is dedicated to this effort, and we are grateful to have you all as partners.

       The use of pretrial services is a decades-old national movement that continues to grow and show results. We've seen success in a number of jurisdictions and at the federal level. The hard evidence in favor of pretrial services is ample, and I'm sure Timothy Murray will cover the outcomes in detail.

       On a more personal note, as a former U.S. Attorney and Assistant U.S. Attorney in D.C., I can attest to the effectiveness of pretrial services. I had the pleasure of working in one of the pioneering agencies in the pretrial field. I saw defendants released, and I saw them return. I witnessed pretrial services working. D.C. has been a leader in the pretrial field for 40 years, and I was honored to serve in a system that worked so well.

       I am just as thrilled to be here today to see New Orleans take the first step on what will be a long - but no doubt rewarding - journey.

       Right now, New Orleans has the distinct opportunity to become a new model of comprehensive, collaborative, excellent criminal justice services. You can become an example of what we can accomplish together. I think your presence here today is the first indication that you will.

       Now, I'd like to introduce a man who fully understands that New Orleans can be a leader in criminal justice innovation. Since his election, Mayor Mitch Landrieu has made it clear that reforming the criminal justice system is one of his top priorities. The Justice Department is fortunate to call him a partner and New Orleans is certainly proud to call him Mayor. Please welcome, Mayor Mitch Landrieu.

* * *

       Thank you again, Mayor Landrieu, for your support. Your vision for New Orleans is one we can all support. Now we have the opportunity to hear from a few of the experts at the Pretrial Justice Institute and the Vera Institute.

       Our first speaker is Timothy Murray, the Executive Director of the Pretrial Justice Institute. Mr. Murray has been working for, with, and on behalf of the Justice Department for years, and his experience in the pretrial services field is extensive. His lengthy resume includes experience in D.C. and Miami-Dade County. In Florida, he helped establish the nation's first drug court and later became DOJ's first director of the Drug Court Program Office, before serving in our Bureau of Justice Assistance. He has received national recognition for his outstanding work in pretrial services. Please welcome Timothy Murray.

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