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Pretrial - Risk Assessment

"The pretrial phase of the criminal justice process should aim to protect public safety and assure defendants’ appearance in court, while honoring individuals’ constitutional rights, including the presumption of innocence and the right to bail that is not excessive. Yet research shows that low-risk, nonviolent defendants who can’t afford to pay often spend extended time behind bars, while high-risk individuals are frequently released from jail. This system causes significant harm to too many individuals and is a threat to our communities."

"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" (p. 3). There were only eight multi-jurisdictional pretrial risk-assessments being used in 2012, all of which depended on defendant interviews. The foundation for an effective non-interview-based risk assessment was the Kentucky Pretrial Risk Assessment (KPRA), an objective instrument comprised of 12 risk factors, some of which were interview-based. The validated assessment was the KPRA-S, a seven risk factor assessment. The KPRA-S was found to accurately determine low-, moderate-, and high-risk defendants. The assessment was also found to predict those individuals prone to fail to appear (FTA) or commit new criminal activity (NCA) as well as the KPRA.

Assessing Pretrial Risk without a Defendant Interview Cover

The Colorado Pretrial Assessment Tool (CPAT) is an empirically-based pretrial risk assessment tool developed to inform bond decisions in Colorado. The tool measures a defendant’s risk of failure to appear (FTA) or re-arrest while released pretrial. The overall goal of this study was to examine and validate the current CPAT, and based on feedback from multiple criminal justice stakeholders, construct and pilot a revised version of this tool, the CPAT-Revised (CPAT-R). The study was completed between January 2018 and June 2020 and included three phases. This report will detail the methodology and results of all three phases of this study.

"Identifying defendants who are most likely to not return to court for their trials is key to reforming the bail system in Wisconsin and nationwide. Doing so will cut costs and increase public safety."

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 developed. Access is provided to: Nevada Pretrial Risk Assessment (NPR)--Draft; NPRA Validation Report and Final NPRA Tool [Development of the Nevada Pretrial Risk Assessment System Final Report]; and Volume One, Two, and Three containing background reports and information about other types of risk assessments used in the United States. Documents are organized into the following areas: Volume One--The Need for Reform of Pretrial Release, Validated Pretrial Risk Tools, and Pretrial Risk Tools Overviews and Validation Studies; Volume Two—Risk and Needs Tools, Pretrial Reform Collateral Issues, and Pretrial Standards and Implementation Guidelines; and Volume Three—Pretrial Standards and Implementation Guidelines (Continued).

""There are people who can be safely managed in the community and the only reason they are not is they don't have any money whatsoever," says Washoe District Court Judge Elliott Sattler, who has administrative oversight responsibilities for the county's pretrial services."

Risk assessment tools are being used throughout the country in pretrial, sentencing, probation, and parole. This article looks at risk assessment tools in general and the development of Alaska’s pretrial risk assessment tool.

This article reviews a new pretrial risk assessment tool that calculates whether a defendant is at low, moderate, or high risk for failure to appear at trial or to commit another crime if released. The tool, incorporated in Alaska’s new bail statute, aids in the judicial officer’s decision regarding pretrial bail conditions.


The Risk Assessment Factsheet (RAF) as a structured, consistent set of key questions regarding important aspects of the design, deployment, and evaluation of pretrial risk assessment tools that stakeholders can use to obtain meaningful information about those tools.

The blank RAF template provides a straightforward, standardized mechanism for stakeholders to use to conduct such audits and comparisons of any pretrial risk assessment tool they choose. The completed RAFs include detailed answers on the template, carefully gathered and assembled by our team and then verified with the appropriate RAF developer.

“This publication is designed for a wide-ranging audience of criminal justice stakeholders who have questions about pretrial risk assessment and its value to the pretrial justice process” (p.3). Sections of this report are: introduction; setting the stage; critical issues related to pretrial release, detention, and risk assessment; challenges to implementing evidence-based risk assessment and threats to reliable administration; methodological challenges associated with prediction of risk; where to go next—recommendations for research and practice; and conclusion.

State of the Science of Pretrial Risk Assessment Cover


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