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Pretrial detention

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. 

A Framework for Pretrial Justice: Essential Elements of an Effective Pretrial System and Agency cover

This is a great example of standards governing the accreditation of pretrial agencies. These standards are organized into the following chapters: personnel practices; organizational and management; general principles governing the pretrial process; first appearance; release conditions; and electronic monitoring. “Each standard is composed of the standard statement and at least one compliance key. The standard statement is a declarative sentence that places a clear-cut requirement, or multiple requirements on the agency. Many statements require the development and implementation of written directives that articulate the agency’s policies, procedures, rules, and regulations. Other standards require an activity, a report, an inspection, equipment, or other action” (p. 13).

Accreditation Standards for Pretrial Agencies Standards Manual Version 1.0.10 Cover

"The dominant narrative around recidivism in America is that most released offenders go on to reoffend and return to prison. In new research, William Rhodes argues that this impression is wrong and that two out of every three released offenders never return to prison. He argues that previous estimates about recidivism have failed to take into account the overrepresentation of returnees in prisons. Accounting for this factor, he finds that only 11 percent of offenders return to prison more than once, and that the total time that offenders actually spend in prison is overestimated as well." This article is based on "Following Incarceration, Most Released Offenders Never Return to Prison", from the journal Crime & Delinquency (published online before print September 29, 2014).

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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 already influenced policy in many parts of the U.S." (p. 3). It seems that pretrial detention "leads to varying levels of disruption across several indicators of functionality – specifically employment, financial situation, residential stability, and issues relating to dependent children" (p. 12).

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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.

Assessing Local Pretrial Justice Functions: A Handbook for Providing Technical Assistance Cover

"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

Objectives: highlight federal resources available to community corrections and criminal justice agencies; define service needs of justice-involved individuals; showcase a local example of collaboration and resources utilization—San Diego County Probation; and engage the criminal justice system in a live discussion about the resources available, how to access funding, receive technical assistance, and to motivate our leaders to want to do more.

CCCN LIVE National Forum Discussion Cover

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 individuals under the legal authority in the community to reduce crime and victimization" (p. i). Seven chapters comprise this publication: the five core domains of community corrections—probation, parole, pretrial services, diversion programs, and community treatment; reducing reoffending, recidivism, and victimization in your community—targeting risk, need, and responsivity of the people we supervise; community corrections—changing lives, reducing harm, and helping to build your community; community corrections--a more central role in how the corrections system will manage its resources and overall approach; community corrections has strong public support; helping to solve the nation's public safety and correctional challenges; and what community corrections needs from the field and its partners to meet the public safety and corrections challenges. "Community corrections is changing lives, reducing harm, and helping build communities, and it has strong public support. To succeed in the future, community corrections and its partners need to refocus resources on approaches that are proven to work; change laws, policies, and practices that do not work; target treatment and supervision only to those who need it; and reallocate resources appropriately. Also to succeed in the future, community corrections and its partners need to expand the capacity of the field to take on new challenges and designate resources appropriately" (p. i).

Community Corrections Collaborative Network: Safe and Smart Ways to Solve America's Correctional Challenges Cover

"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 supervise them in the community. In addition, the research examines the presence of other county policies and practices that may result in the release of the pretrial population from jail. This report provides a first step in understanding the role of counties in pretrial release" (p. 7). Sections following an executive summary include: introduction; key terms; Finding 1—the majority of the jail population is pretrial and low risk; Finding 2—counties are caught between courts' decision-making and increases in the jail population and jail costs; Finding 3—some county jails supervise pretrial detainees outside of confinement; and conclusion.

County Jails at a Crossroads: An Examination of the Jail Population and Pretrial Release cover

Pretrial program models "have evolved considerably in recent decades, and there is evidence to show that they can be more successful than the money bail system at ensuring public safety and court appearance. There are many evidence-based options available to communities seeking to implement or strengthen pretrial programs … Many counties are now exploring such programs, asking critical questions about whom among those awaiting trial needs to be in jail and who can be managed successfully in the community. This toolkit offers guidance to county officials on how to develop and operate these programs at the local level, building upon available literature on effective pretrial policies and practices" (p. 1). Sections of this toolkit are: introduction; an overview of pretrial; pretrial programs—risk assessment; diversion; supervision; assessing pretrial effectiveness; ongoing measurement and enhancement; and conclusion. An appendix includes the fact sheet "What does California state law say about pretrial release?"

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