U.S. Department of Justice

Pretrial

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  • Starts Feb. 13, 2017
    Orientation for New Pretrial Executives
  • Starts Aug. 07, 2017
    Orientation for New Pretrial Executives
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    Topics In the Library

    • Pretrial Release
    • Pretrial Detention
    • Pretrial Diversion
    • Pretrial Services
    • Pretrial Diversion Programs
    • Pretrial Risk Assessment
    • Pretrial Research
    Pretrial Services programs provide crucial information to judicial officers to assist with the bail decisions and to provide supervision and services to pretrial defendants that will promote public safety and court appearance.

    The role of a high functioning pretrial agency can have many positive impacts on local justice systems. By identifying risk factors through validated risk instruments and providing release options and strategies to manage the defendant’s risk pending trial, judicial officers can make informed decisions that balance the Constitutional presumption of innocence while providing protections for the community.


    Recommended Reading

    Date Title Type
    2014
    Document 029517
    Money as a Criminal Justice Stakeholder: The Judge’s Decision to Release or Detain a Defendant Pretrial
    By Schnacke, Timothy R.. NIC-13CS02GK04. National Institute of Corrections (NIC) (Washington, DC).
    "The future of pretrial justice in America will come partly from our deliberative focus on our judges’ decisions to release or detain a criminal defendant pretrial and from our questioning of whether our current constitutional and statutory bail schemes are either helping or hindering those decisions … we recognize that we also need a fair and transparent scheme allowing the preventive detention of higher risk defendants without "bail," or judges will continue to be forced to use money to accomp... Read More

    66 pages
    2014
    Document 028360
    Fundamentals of Bail: A Resource Guide for Pretrial Practitioners and a Framework for American Pretrial Reform
    By Schnacke, Timothy R.. NIC-13CS02GK04. National Institute of Corrections (NIC) (Washington, DC).
    "Pretrial justice requires that those seeking it be consistent with both their vision and with the concept of pretrial best practices, and this document is designed to help further that goal. It can be used as a resource guide, giving readers a basic understanding of the key areas of bail and the criminal pretrial process and then listing key documents and resources necessary to adopt a uniform working knowledge of legal and evidence-based practices in the field. Hopefully, however, this documen... Read More

    119 pages
    2011
    Document 025016
    Assessing Local Pretrial Justice Functions: A Handbook for Providing Technical Assistance
    National Institute of Corrections (Washington, DC).
    This guide “presents a protocol designed to produce high-quality technical assistance for the front end of the criminal justice system—the pretrial justice stage” (p. iii). Sections contained in this publication are: basic obligations of a technical assistance (TA) provider; preparation for the site visit; conducting the site visit; people who should be interviewed and areas of inquiry; after the site visit; characteristics of effective technical assistance; and logistics of acting as a consult... Read More
    PDF
    39 pages
    2011
    Document 025172
    Measuring What Matters: Outcome and Performance Measures for the Pretrial Services Field
    National Institute of Corrections. Pretrial Executives Network (Washington, DC).
    “This monograph presents recommended outcome and performance measures and mission-critical data … [that] will enable pretrial service agencies to gauge more accurately their programs’ effectiveness in meeting agency and justice system goals” (p. v). Sections of this publication include introduction, outcome measures, performance measures, mission-critical data, setting targets, and examples of pretrial release program measures.... Read More
    PDF
    24 pages
    2010
    Document 024372
    A Framework for Evidence-Based Decision Making in Local Criminal Justice Systems
    National Institute of Corrections (Washington, DC). Center for Effective Public Policy (Silver Spring, MD); Pretrial Justice Institute (PJI) (Washington, DC); Justice Management Institute (JMI) (Denver, CO); The Carey Group (Viera, FL).
    This report is essential reading for individuals wanting to achieve "measurable reductions of pretrial misconduct and post-conviction reoffending" (p.6). Eight sections follow an introduction (a new paradigm for the justice system): underlying premises; the key decision points, decision makers, and stakeholders in the criminal justice system; examining justice system decision making through the lens of harm reduction; the principles underlying the framework; applying evidence-based principles to... Read More
    PDF
    68 p.
    2007
    Document 022489
    Pretrial Justice: Principles and Practices
    National Institute of Corrections Academy (Aurora, CO).
    This two-hour program discusses strategies for developing an effective pretrial process (e.g., arrest, interview, risk assessment and recommendation, first appearance, post release supervision, and collaboration between shareholders—agencies, organizations, and the community). This presentation is designed to examine the impact of the pretrial decision to release or detain on jail crowding and public safety; promote fair and just pretrial decision making; and demonstrate best practices consisten... Read More
    VIDEO
    2 DVDs (118 min.)
    2013
    Document 027173
    Guidance for Setting Release Conditions
    National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) (Denver, CO).
    The chart available at this website provides “information on statutory guidance for setting pretrial release conditions” by state. Data presented includes the state, regulating statute, presumption of personal recognizance or unsecured appearance bond, least restrictive conditions required, and whether a risk assessment is required.... Read More
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    2 pages
    2013
    Document 027172
    Pretrial Release Eligibility
    National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) (Denver, CO).
    “State constitutions and statutes specify which defendants may be detained before trial … However, denial of release is not absolute. A court must make certain determinations before ordering detention … While state laws broadly provide for presumption of release, they also define who is and is not eligible for pretrial release, and under what conditions.” A chart showing pretrial release eligibility by state is available at this website. The chart shows the state and its governing statute, presu... Read More
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    3 pages
    2007
    Document 023359
    Legal and Evidence Based Practices: Application of Legal Principles, Laws, and Research to the Field of Pretrial Services
    By VanNostrand, Marie. National Institute of Corrections. Community Corrections Division (Washington, DC). Luminosity, Inc. (St. Petersburg, FL); Crime and Justice Institute (Boston, MA); National Institute of Corrections. Community Corrections Division (Washington, DC).
    "[C]ritical legal principles applicable to defendants during the pretrial stage" are covered (p.3). Sections of this paper are: introduction and background; pretrial legal foundation -- presumption of innocence, right to counsel, right against self-incrimination, right to due process of law, right to equal protection under the law, right to bail that is not excessive, and summary of legal principles; evidence-based practices in pretrial services and community corrections; and summary and conclu... Read More
    PDF
    33 p.
    2015
    Document 030032
    County Jails at a Crossroads: An Examination of the Jail Population and Pretrial Release
    By Ortiz, Natalie. National Association of Counties (NACo) (Washington, DC).
    "This study is the first to examine the participation of county jails in pretrial release. The report identifies the pretrial status and risk level of the county jail population and variations across counties of different population sizes. Further, this research analyzes the challenges that county jails face with their pretrial and overall jail population. The study details to what extent county jails use community based programs to release pretrial detainees from confinement in jail and supervi... Read More

    23 pages
    2013
    Document 028480
    Assessing Pretrial Risk without a Defendant Interview
    By VanNostrand, Marie; Lowenkamp, Christopher T.. Laura and John Arnold Foundation (LJAF) (Houston, TX).
    "Although the use of pretrial risk assessments has increased in recent years, the proportion of jurisdictions employing these instruments remains low, and is estimated to be no more than 10%. This low adoption rate is due in large part to the fact that existing risk assessments require that information be collected through interviews with defendants. Conducting these interviews and verifying the information is a time-consuming and resource-intensive process that many jurisdictions cannot afford"... Read More
    PDF
    21 pages
    2013
    Document 027572
    Colorado Pretrial Assessment Tool (CPAT): Administration, Scoring, and Reporting Manual, Version 1
    By Taylor, Bryan. U.S. Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) (Washington, DC). Pretrial Justice Institute (PJI) Washington, DC).
    The Colorado Pretrial Assessment Tool (CPAT) “is an empirically derived multi-jurisdiction pretrial risk assessment instrument for use in Colorado. It is designed to improve the various pretrial assessment processes that exist in local Colorado jurisdictions … The purpose of a pretrial risk assessment protocol that includes the CPAT is to enable Colorado pretrial services agencies’ recommendations for bond conditions, the court’s ordering of bond conditions, and/or the agency’s pretrial supervis... Read More
    PDF
    13 pages
    2013
    Document 027567
    Evidence-Based Pretrial Release: Final Paper
    By Pepin, Arthur W.. Conference of State Court Administrators (COSCA) (Williamsburg, VA ).
    Anyone looking to reduce the amount of beds they need for pretrial detention should read this publication. It explains why evidence-based assessment of offenders can help reduce the need for current levels of or increased need for pretrial detention capacity. “Evidence-based assessment of the risk a defendant will fail to appear or will endanger others if released can increase successful pretrial release without financial conditions that may defendants are unable to meet. Imposing conditions on ... Read More
    PDF
    16 pages
    2013
    Document 029979
    Investigating the Impact of Pretrial Detention on Sentencing Outcomes
    By Lowenkamp, Christopher T.; VanNostrand, Marie; Holsinger, Alexander. Laura and John Arnold Foundation (LJAF) (Houston, TX).
    "Each time a person is arrested and accused of a crime, a decision must be made as to whether the accused person, known as the defendant, will be detained in jail awaiting trial or will be released back into the community. But pretrial detention is not simply an either-or proposition; many defendants are held for a number of days before being released at some point before their trial. The release-and-detention decision takes into account a number of different concerns, including protecting the c... Read More

    21 pages
    2006
    Document 022013
    Pretrial Case Processing In Maine: A Study of System Efficiency & Effectiveness
    By Van Nostrand, Marie; Keebler, Gena; Jablonski, Patrick; Kays, Brian. National Institute of Corrections. Division of Community Corrections and Prisons (Washington, DC). Luminosity, Inc. (St. Petersburg, FL); Maine. Corrections Alternative Advisory Committee (CAAC) Augusta, ME.
    An assessment of Maine's pretrial case processing system is provided. This report contains the following sections: introduction; Maine's criminal justice system for pretrial case processing; key system participants (e.g., law enforcement, county jail(s), District and Superior Courts, District Attorney's Office, defense attorney, Grand Jury, pretrial services, and probation services) are described for each county in the state; and Maine pretrial case processing flow chart.... Read More
    PDF
    153 p.
    2013
    Document 027064
    Pretrial Detention and Misconduct in Federal District Courts, 1995-2010
    By Cohen, Thomas H.. U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics (Washington, DC).
    This report “[p]resents findings on general trends in pretrial detention and misconduct in the federal district courts between fiscal years 1995 and 2010. The report highlights trends in the number of defendants released and detained pretrial and examines the changing composition of defendants with federal pretrial dispositions, including the increase in defendants charged with immigration violations and the growth of defendants with serious criminal backgrounds. It examines the relationships be... Read More
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    13 pages
    2015
    Document 031314
    Risk-Based Pretrial Release Recommendations and Supervision Guidelines: Exploring the Effect on Officer Recommendations, Judicial Decision-Making, and Pretrial Outcome
    By Danner, Mona J.E.; VanNostrand, Marie; Spruance, Lisa M.. Luminosity, Inc. (St. Petersburg, FL).
    "The Virginia Pretrial Risk Assessment Instrument (VPRAI), known nationally as the "Virginia Model," was the first research-based statewide pretrial risk assessment in the country. The VPRAI examines eight risk factors that are weighted to create a risk score, and defendants are assigned to one of five risk levels ranging from low to high that represent the likelihood of pretrial failure. Although Pretrial Services staff consider the results of the VPRAI, there was previously no guidance for ma... Read More

    51 pages
    2004
    Document 020265
    Standards on Pretrial Release
    National Institute of Corrections. Community Corrections Division (Washington, DC). National Association of Pretrial Services Agencies (Wauwatosa, WI).
    Effective procedures governing the release or detention of arrested individuals are presented. Thirty-four standards and related commentary are organized into the following four parts: general principles governing the pretrial process; nature of first appearance and release/decision; purposes, roles, and functions of pretrial services agencies; and management and oversight of pretrial processes following initial decision concerning release or detention.... Read More
    PDF
    88 p.
    2013
    Document 027502
    The Delivery of Pretrial Justice in Rural Areas: A Guide for Rural County Officials
    By Vetter, Stephanie J.; Clark, John. U.S. Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) (Washington, DC). Pretrial Justice Institute (PJI) (Washington, DC); National Association of Counties (NACo) (Washington, DC).
    “This is a guide for elected officials seeking to enhance existing or develop new pretrial justice practices in rural areas. By identifying the characteristics, strengths and challenges in rural jurisdictions and combining these factors with the lessons and experiences of urban, suburban and rural pretrial justice programs, national standards and best practices, this guide offers a set of recommendations to enhance local policies and practices within the context of rural settings” (p. 3). Sectio... Read More
    PDF
    23 pages
    2013
    Document 027893
    Unsecured Bonds: The Most Effective and Efficient Pretrial Release Option
    By Jones, Michael R.. U.S. Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) (Washington, DC). Pretrial Justice Institute (PJI) (Washington, DC).
    If your pretrial agency is looking for solid empirical evidence about the effectiveness of unsecure bonds compared to secure bonds in safeguarding public safety, you need to read this report. “Findings support judicial officers changing their practices to use more unsecured releases, to include unsecured bonds if currently permitted by law, to achieve the same public safety and court appear¬ance rates while using far fewer jail beds. These un¬secured bonds could be used in conjunction with an in... Read More
    PDF
    26 pages

    Related Resources

    Date Title Type
    2016
    Document 032719
    Pretrial Justice: How to Maximize Public Safety, Court Appearance and Release [Internet Broadcast]
    By Green, Katie; Eville, Lori; Boatner, Peter L.; Johnson, Susan (Suzi); Kennedy, Spurgeon; Moore, Leland J.; O’Connor, Tom; Rose, Ken; Schnacke, Timothy; Zeerip, Bo A.. National Institute of Corrections (NIC) (Washington, DC).
    “The history of bail and the law intertwined with [this] history tell us that the three goals underlying the bail process are to maximize release while simultaneously maximizing court appearance and public safety.” -- Timothy R. Schnacke, Fundamentals of Bail Courts in the United States process millions of criminal cases annually. Each requires a judicial officer to determine the conditions of a defendant’s release pending adjudication—bail. Bail determination is one of the most important dec... Read More

    180 minutes
    2016
    Document 032726
    Transition from Jail to Community (TJC) Initiative Phase 2 Site Reports
    By Christensen, Gary; Jannetta, Jesse; Kurs, Emma; Owens, Colleen; Rao, Shebani; Warwick, Kevin; Willison, Janeen Buck. National Institute of Corrections (NIC) (Washington, DC). National Institute of Corrections (NIC) (Washington, DC); Urban Institute (Washington, DC); Alternative Solutions Associates (Chicopee, MA); Corrections Partners, Inc. (CPI) (Clinton Corners, NY).
    "TJC [Transition from Jail to Community] represents an integrated approach spanning organizational boundaries to deliver needed information, services, and case management to people released from jail. Boundary-spanning collaborative partnerships are necessary because transition from jail to the community is neither the sole responsibility of the jail nor of the community. Accordingly, effective transition strategies rely on collaboration among jail- and community-based partners and joint ownersh... Read More

    2016
    Document 032727
    Working with Victims of Crime: An Integrated Approach for Community Supervision Professionals
    By Baker, Maureen; King, Erica; Wheeler, Tara; Conners, Anne; Sanchez, Mara. National Institute of Corrections (NIC) (Washington, DC); University of Southern Maine. Muskie School of Public Service. Cutler Institute for Health and Social Policy (Portland, ME).
    This Guide provides a comprehensive overview of available information on victims’ rights and services. It is informed by the foundational work of many advocates, academics and community corrections professionals. While the Guide will outline specific tools and resources to inform your work, it is worth noting that there is no “one size fits all” approach that will work across all scenarios. There may be information in the Guide that will require you to self-reflect on your practice as it relates... Read More

    2016
    Document 032716
    Analyzing Bond Supervision Survey Data: The Effects of Pretrial Detention on Self-Reported Outcomes
    By Holsinger, Alexander M.. U.S. Bureau of Justice Assistance (Washington, DC). Crime and Justice Institute (CJI) (Boston, MA).
    This study's aim is to "shed more light on what the impact of pretrial detention may be on several non-Criminal Justice related outcomes. If we can gain a better understanding of the effects of pretrial detention, even detention for relatively short periods (e.g., less than three days), policy regarding risk-based decisions can be informed. Likewise there is benefit in further examining the “more than” vs. “less than” three days of pretrial incarceration in light of recent research that has alre... Read More

    19 pages
    2016
    Document 032712
    Nevada Pretrial Risk Assessment Instrument (NPR) Documents
    Supreme Court of Nevada Judicial Council Committee to Study Evidence-Based Pretrial Release (Carson City, NE).
    Following a review of the available research regarding pretrial risk assessment instruments being used in other jurisdictions, the Committee decided that "it would be preferable to develop a customized pretrial risk instrument that incorporated all of the positive attributes of these risk instruments but had the advantage of being tested and normed on defendants being released in Nevada" (Final Report, p. 1). This collection of documents explains how the Nevada Pretrial Risk Assessment (NPR) was... Read More

    2015
    Document 032627
    Improving Responses to People with Mental Illnesses at the Pretrial Stage: Essential Elements
    By Fader-Towe, Hallie; Osher, Fred C.. Public Welfare Foundation (Washington, DC). Council of State Government (CSG). Justice Center (New York, NY).
    "This report introduces essential elements for responding to people with mental illnesses at the pretrial stage, including decisions about pretrial release and diversion. These elements encourage data collection not only to help individual communities, but also for future researchers who are dedicated to these important questions."... Read More

    42 pages
    2015
    Document 031314
    Risk-Based Pretrial Release Recommendations and Supervision Guidelines: Exploring the Effect on Officer Recommendations, Judicial Decision-Making, and Pretrial Outcome
    By Danner, Mona J.E.; VanNostrand, Marie; Spruance, Lisa M.. Luminosity, Inc. (St. Petersburg, FL).
    "The Virginia Pretrial Risk Assessment Instrument (VPRAI), known nationally as the "Virginia Model," was the first research-based statewide pretrial risk assessment in the country. The VPRAI examines eight risk factors that are weighted to create a risk score, and defendants are assigned to one of five risk levels ranging from low to high that represent the likelihood of pretrial failure. Although Pretrial Services staff consider the results of the VPRAI, there was previously no guidance for ma... Read More

    51 pages
    2015
    Document 029999
    Pretrial Risk Assessment: Science Provides Guidance on Assessing Defendants
    Pretrial Justice Institute (PJI) (Washington, DC).
    This issue brief covers: what an empirically-derived pretrial risk assessment tool is; why it is important to know a defendant's risk level; what these tools look like; how empirically-derived pretrial risk assessment tools are developed; what pretrial risk tools tell us about typical success rates by risk level; the number of places that use empirically-derived pretrial risk assessment tool; how we know these tools work; whether there is such a thing as a universal pretrial risk assessment tool... Read More

    6 pages
    2015
    Document 029982
    The Costs of Pretrial Justice
    Public Welfare Foundation (Washington, DC); Crime and Justice Institute (CJI) (Boston, MA).
    This "series of briefs which explore the costs of pretrial justice and how those costs can be effectively mitigated through risk-based decision making." "The Cost of Pretrial Justice: This brief highlights costs that local stakeholders should consider when developing pretrial policies and programs, outlines some of the trade-offs policy makers face when allocating scarce resources, and points to the need to apply cost-benefit analysis to pretrial decision making." "Pretrial Justice: Costs and ... Read More

    2015
    Document 030032
    County Jails at a Crossroads: An Examination of the Jail Population and Pretrial Release
    By Ortiz, Natalie. National Association of Counties (NACo) (Washington, DC).
    "This study is the first to examine the participation of county jails in pretrial release. The report identifies the pretrial status and risk level of the county jail population and variations across counties of different population sizes. Further, this research analyzes the challenges that county jails face with their pretrial and overall jail population. The study details to what extent county jails use community based programs to release pretrial detainees from confinement in jail and supervi... Read More

    23 pages
    2015
    Document 029986
    What Are Drug Courts? The Most Effective Justice Strategy Addressing the Drug-Addicted and Mentally Ill …
    National Association of Drug Court Professionals (NADCP) (Alexandria, VA).
    This website provides information about drug courts. Sections cover: how drug courts work; who is eligible; what drug courts do what drug courts need; types of drug courts with definitions for adult drug court, veterans treatment court, DWI court, family dependency treatment court (family drug court), federal district drug court (federal reentry court), juvenile drug court, reentry court, reentry drug court, and tribal healing to wellness court; problem solving courts using the drug court model ... Read More

    2015
    Document 029826
    Trends in Pretrial Release: State Legislation
    By Widgery, Amber. Laura and John Arnold Foundation (New York, NY). National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) (Denver, CO).
    "State laws provide a framework for judges and other local officials to determine who is eligible for [pretrial] release and under what conditions. In recent years, state legislation has concentrated largely on individualizing the pretrial process by focusing on specific defendants or offense categories. From 2012 to 2014, 261 new laws in 47 states addressed pretrial policy" (p. 1). This document provides an overview of these legislative enactments. Sections cover pretrial legislation by: risk a... Read More

    5 pages

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