U.S. Department of Justice

Pretrial

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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.


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Recommended Reading

Date Title Type
2015
Document 029722
Measuring for Results: Outcome and Performance Measures for Pretrial Diversion Field
By Kennedy, Spurgeon; Klute, Tara Boh. National Association of Pretrial Services Agencies (NAPSA) (Washington, DC); National Institute of Corrections (NIC). Community Services Division (Washington, DC).
"This publication outlines suggested outcome and performance measures and critical operational data for pretrial diversion programs. Its goals are to present clearly defined and easily calculable measures that pretrial diversion programs can use to gauge progress in achieving their mission and strategic goals, improve business decisions, and illustrate pretrial diversion’s value in an evidence-based criminal justice system. The suggested measures are compatible with established national pretrial... Read More
PDF
29 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.
2011
Document 025297
Commonwealth of Virginia: Roadmap for Evidence-Based Practices in Community Corrections
By Pierce-Danford, Kristy; Guevara, Meghan. U.S. Bureau of Justice Assistance (Washington, DC). Community Resources for Justice. Crime and Justice Institute (Boston, MA).
“The Roadmap is a guide for the sustainable implementation and replication of evidence-based practices in pretrial and local probation agencies across the state ... [it] offers valuable insights into lessons learned during implementation and provides proven strategies for addressing challenges to sustainable change” (p. 1). Chapters following an introduction explaining how to use the Roadmap are: Virginia’s application of the Integrated Model; assessing the organization; strategic planning and w... Read More
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141 pages
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
2012
Document 026819
2012 Pretrial Release Legislation Overview
National Conferences of State Legislatures (NCSL) (Denver, CO).
“This overview identifies and describes significant actions and trends within this collection of [pretrial] legislation” (p. 1). Sections of this report cover: pretrial release eligibility--crime specific restrictions, risk assessments for pretrial release, and offenses committed during release; pretrial release options—non-monetary bail (release on recognizance (ROR), electronic monitoring, and pretrial services programs), and monetary bail; commercial bond regulation—commercial bond business p... Read More
WEB
4 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 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
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
2011
Document 025705
Promising Practices in Providing Pretrial Services Functions Within Probation Agencies: A Users Guide
U.S. Bureau of Justice Assistance (Washington, DC). American Probation and Parole Association (APPA) (Lexington, KY); Pretrial Justice Institute (PJI) (Washington, DC).
Guidance is provided for jurisdictions looking to incorporate a pretrial services function within a probation department. This combination will serve to “retain or implement evidence-based practices in a way that provides the most efficient use of criminal justice resources without sacrificing public safety” (p. 7). Sections of this publication are: introduction; advantages of providing pretrial services functions in a probation department—taking advantage of existing infrastructure and relatio... Read More
PDF
36 pages
2012
Document 029650
Rational and Transparent Bail Decision Making: Moving from a Cash-Based to a Risk-Based Process
Pretrial Justice Institute (PJI); John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation (Chicago, IL).
"This White Paper takes the position that most of the money spent to house defendants who cannot post a bond is unnecessary to achieve the purposes of bond – to protect the safety of the community while the defendant’s case is pending, and to assure the appearance of the defendant in court. With local jurisdictions laying off teachers, police officers and firefighters and cutting back on vital services because they do not have the money to pay them, this waste of money is unconscionable" (p. 1-2... Read More
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44 pages
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
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 029996
Washington Corrections Center for Women TEDx Talks
Washington Corrections Center for Women (WCCW) (xxx).
This website provides access to TEDx videos given at the Washington Corrections Center for Women (WCCW) "Does Gender Matter" event on March 14, 2015. Topics range from the "Northern Cree Women's Honor Song" by the Broken Wing Center, "Tell Me You Don’t See" by Tiffany Williams, "Summon Your Courage" by Cathryn Cummings, "The Hard Stuff" by Felice Davis, "Judging Societie by Women's Prison" by Emily Salisbury, to "Coming to a Neighborhood Near Your" by Marriam Oliver". There are 21 talks.... Read More

2015
Document 029996
Washington Corrections Center for Women TEDx Talks
Washington Corrections Center for Women (WCCW) (xxx).
This website provides access to TEDx videos given at the Washington Corrections Center for Women (WCCW) "Does Gender Matter" event on March 14, 2015. Topics range from the "Northern Cree Women's Honor Song" by the Broken Wing Center, "Tell Me You Don’t See" by Tiffany Williams, "Summon Your Courage" by Cathryn Cummings, "The Hard Stuff" by Felice Davis, "Judging Societie by Women's Prison" by Emily Salisbury, to "Coming to a Neighborhood Near Your" by Marriam Oliver". There are 21 talks.... 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 029995
Pretrial Assistance to California Counties: (PACC): Humboldt County Technical Assistance Report
Public Welfare Foundation (Washington, DC). Crime and Justice Institute (CRI) (Oakland, CA).
"This report provides an overview of technical assistance process and results in Humboldt County. It describes CJI work with Humboldt County officials to identify goals, make process improvements, and measure outcomes. It also describes challenges for Humboldt County—and potentially for other California jurisdictions—as they work to improve the pretrial justice system going forward." Sections of this publication include: introduction; background; California Policy Reform—Senate Bill 678 and Asse... Read More

9 pages
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
2015
Document 029828
State Pretrial Release Legislation Database
Laura and John Arnold Foundation (LJAF) (Houston, Texas). National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) (Denver, CO).
This is the place to look for significant pretrial legislation enacted by states starting in 2012. You can search by topic, state, keyword, status (adopted, enacted, override pending, pending, and to governor), bill number, year, and author. Topics are: Bond Forfeiture and Conditions Violations; Budget, Oversight, and Administration; Citation in Lieu of Arrest; Commercial Bond Regulation; Conditions of Pretrial Release; Court Guidance for Release Determinations; Diversion Programs; Eligibility f... Read More

2014
Document 028317
Community Corrections Collaborative Network: Safe and Smart Ways to Solve America's Correctional Challenges
By Ziedenberg, Jason. National Institute of Corrections (NIC). Community Services Division (Washington, DC); NIC-TA#13C5022. National Institute of Corrections (NIC). Community Corrections Collaborative Network (CCCN) (Washington, DC).
The National Institute of Corrections (NIC) Community Corrections Collaborative Network (CCCN)—a network representing community corrections professionals—commissioned a position paper to explore the successes and challenges facing the community corrections field. The position paper, "Community Corrections Collaborative Network: Safe and Smart Ways To Solve America’s Correctional Challenges", finds that community corrections is a critical part of the public safety system that supervises individua... Read More
PDF
36 pages
2014
Document 029649
Pretrial Services: An Effective Alternative to Monetary Bail
By Lam, Courtney. Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice (CJCJ) (New York, NY).
"In an attempt to reduce jail overcrowding, attention is turning to the 63 percent of people held in county jails who have not been convicted of a crime. Many of these people are waiting for their day in court in jail — not because they pose a risk to public safety, but simply because they cannot afford to post bail … This publication examines the challenges of relying on a monetary bail system and highlights existing solutions, such as pretrial services, that save money, reduce racial dispariti... Read More
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7 pages
2014
Document 028258
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and the Pretrial System: A "Front Door" to Health and Safety
Public Welfare Foundation (Washington, DC). National Association of Pretrial Services Agencies (NAPSA) (Washington, DC).
"The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) provides an historic opportunity for millions of low-income individuals to obtain insurance coverage for their physical and behavioral health care needs. For the last several years, diverse behavioral health advocates, health care providers and community-based prevention organizations, have worked to understand the implications of the ACA on the justice-involved population. Much of the conversation has been centered on the disproportionately ... Read More
PDF
15 pages

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