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.
The Purpose of Pretrial Release
Our criminal justice system stands on two bedrock principles: that individuals accused of a crime are presumed innocent until proven guilty, and that they are entitled to a speedy trial. Yet many defendants are detained in jail before and during trial -- while they are presumed innocent -- because they cannot post bail, and, all too often, have to wait an extended number of months to see their day in court (Joint Committee on Criminal Justice - New Jersey, 2014). This can impair their access to justice as a result of a reduced ability to actively participate in planning their defense with counsel, contacting witnesses, and collecting evidence. Some low-level offenders may plead guilty, not because of their culpability, but because of their need or desire to get out of jail, particularly individuals with fragile employment which would be lost if they miss work, or single parents who need to care for their children.
Research also shows that low-risk defendants who are detained pretrial are more likely to commit new crimes, not only while their cases are pending, but also years later. The impact of unnecessary pretrial detention also is reflected in bloated jail populations and the accompanying expenses of providing health care, meals, and other costs of incarceration. (Missouri Pretrial Best Practices, 2016)