Lynne Rienner Publishers Logo

Outsourcing Justice: The Role of Nonprofit Caseworkers in Pretrial Release Programs

Ursula Castellano
Outsourcing Justice: The Role of Nonprofit Caseworkers in Pretrial Release Programs
ISBN: 978-1-935049-29-6
ISBN: 978-1-935049-68-5
2011/173 pages/LC: 2010051305
A FirstForumPress Book
"Refreshing and insightful.... Castellano makes an important contribution to the sociology of law and punishment, leaving no doubt that we disregard the front-end of the penal system and the growing tendency to outsource justice at our own peril."—Joshua Page, Contemporary Sociology

"Effectively explores what happens when justice is contracted out to the nonprofit sector and how it shapes judicial processes."—Elizabeth Bonomo, Criminal Justice Review

"An important contribution to our discussions of the practical meaning of the term ‘criminal justice’ in the contemporary US."—Gale Miller, Marquette University

"A thought-provoking look at the early stages of the criminal justice process.... Castellano aptly shows how pretrial release decisions—even ones designed to keep defendants out of jails—could lead to a more expanded form of social control."—Leslie Paik, The City College of the City University of New York


Do pretrial release programs, initiated and now operated by a range of nonprofit organizations to redress the inequalities of the bail system, affect the administration of justice? Specifically, do they lessen the barriers to justice often faced by poor and minority defendants? Ursula Castellano's ethnographic study of four pretrial release programs reveals the often unintended consequences of incorporating social service nonprofits in the criminal court process.

Castellano explores the intimate workings of pretrial release programs to show how contract caseworkers now play a critical role at nearly every stage of the criminal justice process—and also how well-intentioned nonprofits can end up compromising the traditional adversarial legal process in the name of treatment, sometimes in ways that are detrimental for defendants. In the process, she  raises new questions about the increasing involvement of nonprofits in the operation of government.


Ursula Castellano is assistant professor of sociology and anthropology at Ohio University.


  • Outsourcing Justice.
  • Mapping the Pretrial Terrain.
  • Nonprofit Casework in Context.
  • Screening Potential Clients.
  • Judging Release Criteria.
  • Assisting in the Defense.
  • Policing Compliance.
  • New Courthouse Careers.
  • Appendix: Pretrial Career of an Ethnographer.