Abolitionist Law Center

Using Technology to Advocate for, Organize, and Divert Probation-Impacted People in Detention

Allegheny County, PA

Most people in the Allegheny County Jail have not been convicted of a crime and are there because of “unbailable detention,” meaning they are either awaiting trial and cannot pay bail or are being detained for an alleged parole or probation violation. These jail stays often last weeks or months, causing disastrous effects for people who are incarcerated, their families and other loved ones, and their communities, and particularly for Black residents, who are substantially more likely to be arrested, charged, and have monetary bail imposed.

With Catalyst Grant funding, the Abolitionist Law Center will use technology to automatically scrape the online dockets of probation-violation hearings in Allegheny County and will build online forms to streamline hearing observations performed by volunteers. These data will expand the reach of the center’s Court Watch program by pairing observations of court proceedings and analysis of online data to develop diversion opportunities for people in the Allegheny County Jail and fuel litigation, public education, community organizing, and public campaigns that advocate for improved conditions.