Innocent Until Proven Risky

Every day, nearly half a million people who have only been accused of a crime are held in jail before their trial, mostly because they can’t afford to pay bail. And 70% of them are people of color. One proposed solution to lower the rates of people held in jail pretrial is to use Risk Assessment Tools (RATs) to help judges set a person’s pretrial conditions. RATs use demographic information to guess how a person accused of a crime will behave if they’re released from jail before trial. But the data that RATs use to make predictions reflects who is policed and arrested more often – not who commits more crimes. As RATs are being used more frequently across the country with little transparency, the racial disparities in pretrial detention have not improved, and in some places, have worsened. 

To help communities understand how RATs work and how to organize for alternatives, CUP collaborated with JustLeadershipUSA and designer Katrin Bichler to create Innocent Until Proven Risky. The fold-out poster illustrates how pretrial Risk Assessment Tools work and how they can impact individuals differently based on their race and class. The guide folds out into a poster that explores community-based alternatives to RATs.

Innocent Until Proven Risky will be distributed through JustLeadershipUSA’s national network of organizers and community members.

Resources & Links

JustLeadershipUSA is dedicated to cutting the US correctional population in #halfby2030. JLUSA empowers people most affected by incarceration to drive policy reform.

Katrin Bichler is a multidisciplinary designer focusing on data, social and enviormental justice, cats and Jake Gyllenhaal. 

Making Policy Public is a program of the Center for Urban Pedagogy (CUP). CUP partners with policy advocates and graphic designers to produce foldout posters that explain complicated policy issues, like this one.

Funding Support

Support for this project was provided National Endowment for the Arts and public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council. 

Special Thanks

David Etheridge- Bartow, Mark Torrey, Christine Gaspar, Clair Beltran, Miranda Grundy, Erin George, Hannah Jane Sassaman, Lex Steppling, Nicole Triplett, and everyone else who provided feedback on the project. 


  • CUP
  • Siyona Ravi
  • Yasmin Safdié

  • Megan French-Marcelin
  • Monica Novoa
  • Katie Schaffer
  • Designer
  • Katrin Bichler
  • Illustration Support
  • Sarah Jansen