In line with directives from the White House, state authorities, and local officials, criminal justice agencies around the country have modified operations to comply with social distancing, travel restrictions, and mandatory health orders due to COVID-19. These policies have a significant impact on the judiciary, causing courthouse closures, the suspension of jury trials, and the halting or modification of court orders. It has required criminal justice decision makers to swiftly examine their pretrial populations and practices to comply with these modified operations.
In this webinar you will hear from decision makers who were responsible for upholding these recommendations. They will share their challenges and experiences in implementing these directives, as well as the opportunities they found for adopting long- term practice changes that focus on maximizing public safety, court appearances, and release of pretrial defendants.
- Discuss the collaborative efforts among pretrial services, the courts, district attorney’s offices, and jails to manage the pretrial population during the coronavirus pandemic.
- Identify innovative approaches to support defendant court appearance and connection with pretrial service officers.
- Highlight early challenges and opportunities.
- Show how technology is playing a key role in the new normal.
- Provide key resources to the field.
- Greg Crawford, Correctional Program Specialist, National Institute of Corrections
- Lori Eville, Correctional Program Specialist, National Institute of Corrections
- Spurgeon Kennedy, Vice-President, National Association of Pretrial Services Agencies
- The Honorable Karen Thomas, Judge, 17th Judicial District of Kentucky
- Tara Boh Blair, Executive Officer, Kentucky Court of Justice, Department of Pretrial Services
- Kevin Burns, Captain, San Juan County Sheriff’s Office, New Mexico
- Krista Lawrence, Division Director, 11th Judicial District and Magistrate Courts, New Mexico
- Jon Tunheim, Prosecuting Attorney, Thurston County District Court, Washington
- Marianne Clear, Director, Thurston County Pretrial Services, Washington
This webinar aired on September 3rd, 2020.
This document highlights the commitment of the National Institute of Corrections (NIC) to define and support evidence-based practices that improve decision-making at the pretrial stage of our criminal justice system, enhancing the safety of America’s communities and fostering the fair administration of pretrial release and detention. With the release of A Framework for Pretrial Justice: Essential Elements of an Effective Pretrial System and Agency, NIC and its Pretrial Executive Network helps inform the discussion on bail reform and pretrial justice by presenting and defining the fundamentals of an effective pretrial system and the essential elements of a high functioning pretrial services agency. This publication presents and describes these essential elements—as well as the components of an evidence-based framework for improving pretrial outcomes nationwide.
Bail determination is one of the most important decisions in criminal justice. Courts that make evidence-based decisions set the following as goals: (1) Protecting community safety; (2) Ensuring a defendant’s return to court; (3) Basing release and detention decisions on an individual defendant’s risk and the community’s norms for liberty; [and] (4) Providing judicial officers with clear, legal options for appropriate pretrial release and detention decisions.
A Framework for Pretrial Justice: Essential Elements of an Effective Pretrial System and Agency should serve as a guide for jurisdictions interested in improving their current pretrial systems. By presenting a framework of evidence-based and best practices, NIC supports the equally important concepts of pretrial justice and enhanced public safety in all of America’s courts.
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 consulting technical assistance provider.
"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 document will serve as more than just a paper providing mere background information, for it is designed, instead, to also provide the intellectual framework to finally achieve pretrial justice in America … in this country we have undertaken two generations of pretrial reform, and we are currently in a third. The lessons we have learned from the first two generations are monumental, but we have not fully implemented them, leading to the need for some “grand unifying theory” to explore how this third generation can be our last. In my opinion, that theory comes from a solid consensus understanding of the fundamentals of bail, why they are important, and how they work together toward an idea of pretrial justice that all Americans can embrace" (p. 4). Sections following an executive summary are; introduction—what bail and bond are; why we need pretrial improvements; the history of bail; legal foundations of pretrial justice; pretrial research; national standards on pretrial release; pretrial terms and phrases; application—guidelines for pretrial reform; and conclusion.
"[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 conclusions.
The first edition of this publication was released in 2011. As pretrial services have redefined its goals and strategic objectives, so must its outcome and performance metrics change. To that end—and to ensure that metrics for the field continue to be developed by practitioners—NIC commissioned PEN to assess the current pretrial landscape and revise current metrics to match these new dynamics. This process included internal discussion by PEN members and input via a survey from pretrial services agency directors whose agencies collect performance metrics. PEN member discussions and the survey focused on which measures “work” in the real world, which were problematic, and what other data should be considered to gauge agency outcomes. The metrics presented here reflect this feedback. Outcomes are now tied to the three principles of bail—maximizing release, court appearance, and public safety—and a more refined definition of system “success” in meeting these objectives. Included commentary discusses how changes in the pretrial landscape over the past decade have helped redefine outcome and performance metrics.
"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 accomplish the same thing, albeit unfairly, non-transparently, and, some would say, unlawfully. A new group of people are now telling us that we can never change our constitution to allow the creation of this scheme, but the fact is that change is inevitable. Indeed, moving from a mostly charge and money-based bail system to one based primarily on empirically-derived risk necessarily means that virtually all American bail laws are antiquated and must be changed … This paper is designed to show a somewhat ideal process for making a release or detain decision, but with the realization that a particular state’s bail laws may hinder that ideal process to a point where best practices are difficult or even impossible to implement. Nevertheless, until we know how the pretrial decision-making process should work (i.e., an in-or-out decision, immediately effectuated), we will never know exactly which changes we must make to further the goals underlying the "bail/no bail" process" (p. 1). Chapters following an executive summary are: introduction; the history and the law related to bail up to the Twentieth Century; how pretrial decision making in the United States got off track; "bail" (release) and "no bail" (detention); the national standards on pretrial release; effective pretrial decision making—risk assessment instruments, and assessing which conditions are effective for their lawful purposes; the practical aspects of making an effective "release/detain" or in-or-out-decision—the three steps of proper purpose, legal assessment, and release or detention result; and conclusion.
“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 decisions in the criminal case processing, designated as a “critical stage” by the United States Supreme Court where liberty and due process interests are paramount. Justice systems that administer bail effectively have as their overarching goals assuring a defendant’s return to court and safeguarding the community. To help balance the individual’s right to reasonable bail with the public’s expectation of safety, these systems assess the likelihood of missed court appearances or new criminal activity using factors shown by research to be related to pretrial misconduct and provide supervision designed to address these risks. Moreover, these systems give judicial officers clear, legal options for appropriate pretrial release and detention decisions. As a result, unnecessary pretrial detention is minimized, public safety is enhanced and, most significantly, the pretrial release process is administered fairly.
Unfortunately, most local justice systems lack truly effective bail decision making components. Most judicial officers do not receive the information needed in bail setting to make the best decisions about release and detention, nor do they have a full statutory gamut of release and detention options to address the varying levels of risk found within the defendant population. Even when options exist, most systems lack the structure to monitor released defendants, to regularly screen detained defendants for release eligibility, or to safeguard individual rights and community safety.
The shortcomings of the current bail system have made bail reform part of the larger national discussion on improving America’s criminal justice systems. For most justice systems in America, achieving true bail reform will mean going beyond technical changes to a deeper and more holistic change in culture and attitudes about the concept of pretrial release; the rights of pretrial defendants; and what is truly needed to reasonably assure future court appearance and community safety. In order to achieve meaningful bail reform, all elements of an effective pretrial justice system must be defined and in place.
During the broadcast presenters will: Define the framework for developing a high functioning pretrial justice system; Discuss the importance of bail history and the legal processes underlying it; Identify the essential elements of a legal and evidence based pretrial justice system; Identify the importance of the criminal justice system to support a legal and evidenced based pretrial services agency; and Discuss the differences between technical and adaptive change within organizations and the effects on implementation.
This broadcast will answer the following questions: What is the roadmap to pretrial justice reform? Where do we begin? What is the history of bail reform, and why is it important to your work today? What are the essential elements of a high functioning pretrial system? What outcomes could you expect from collaboration among pretrial justice stakeholders? What changes are needed to become a high functioning pretrial justice system? Have you ever asked the question “What are the benefits of developing a pretrial agency?”
According to those who study evidence-based teaching methods, comparing and contrasting two different objects, persons, or even fields and disciplines, such as pretrial release and probation, can have one of the greatest effects on learning. Indeed, comparing and contrasting is considered to be one of the earliest ways that we humans begin learning (going back to how we identify things in early childhood) and makes the best use of elements necessary for all effective learning methods, each of which allows us to form relationships between constructs through reasoning. In sum, comparing and contrasting is highly valuable. Nevertheless, there are three prerequisites to any compare and contrast exercise.
The symposium highlighted promising law enforcement, prosecutorial, and judicial interventions at the pretrial stage and promoted dialogue among justice practitioners on how front-end interventions could fit within an evidence-based, harm reduction-focused criminal justice framework. As illustrated above, participants at the symposium learned about and considered various alternative approaches to increasing public safety and addressing health issues facing their communities. They also shared their experiences with—and perspectives on—implementing front-end interventions in their own jurisdictions.