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Pretrial services

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.

Webinar Objectives:

  • 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

Panel Members:

  • 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.


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While studies indicate court date reminder notification programs increase court appearance rates, additional peer-reviewed research is required before making confident inferences regarding the most effective type and timing of the notification. One study directly evaluating the impact of different notification methods (robocalls vs. live calls) found no differences between notification methods on court appearance rates (Ropac, unpublished). Additional peer-reviewed research is needed to identify how court date notifications impact court appearance rates by jurisdiction population size and region. One study (Bornstein et al., 2013) found individuals in rural counties were significantly more likely to appear for their scheduled court dates than those in urban counties (93.2% vs. 87.6%, respectively). However, given the vast differences in population size, politics, funding, available resources and technology, in addition to regional differences, it would behoove researchers in the field to investigate how such differences may influence court appearance rates as well as the implementation of notification strategies to increase court appearance rates.

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.

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Like its previous edition, Measuring What Matters, Second Edition helps agencies gather consistent and meaningful data to track the performance of pretrial programs based on the mission and needs of their local criminal justice system.

The second edition emphasizes measures that “work” in the real world and introduces a new definition of what it means to be successful in pretrial services. Each measure ties to the three principles of bail—maximizing release, ensuring court appearance, and maintaining public safety—and features commentary discussing how the measure has changed over time based on changes in the pretrial field. Today’s pretrial service agencies use outcome and performance metrics as an integral part of their pretrial practice and training. With the development of professional standards for the pretrial services field comes the need to have measures that will help them meet the challenge.

This webinar introduces NIC’s new publication and highlights key defining outcome and performance measures for pretrial agencies. The session will also describe how to tie the key measures to the three principles of bail: maximizing release, court appearance, and public safety.

Learning Objectives:

During this 90-minute interactive webinar, participants will:

  • Be introduced to Measuring What Matters: Outcome and Performance Measures for the Pretrial Services Field, Second Edition
  • Highlight key defining outcome and performance measures and supporting business practices
  • Describe how to tie the key measures to the three principles of bail: maximizing release, court appearance, and public safety
  • Provide specific site examples of jurisdictions implementing key measures and sharing successes, challenges, and lessons learned

This webinar originally aired on September 21, 2021 at 10am PT / 11am MT /12pm CT / 1pm ET for 90 minutes.


  • Greg Crawford, Correctional Program Specialist, National Institute of Corrections
  • Spurgeon Kennedy, President-Elect, National Association of Pretrial Service Agencies
  • Barb Hankey, Manager, Oakland County Community Corrections, Michigan

Panel Members

  • Jessica Beach, Community Justice Director, Yamhill County, Oregon
  • Kelly Bradford, Statewide Pretrial Program Manager, Administrative Office of the Courts, New Mexico
  • Domingo Corona, Director of Pretrial Services, Pima County, Arizona
  • Janice Dean, Pretrial Services Director, 5th Judicial District of Pennsylvania
  • Rhonda Frank-Loron, Pretrial Program Manager, Madison, Wisconsin


As state and local jurisdictions were dealing with the onset of the pandemic, NAPSA created a survey to learn what responses to COVID-19 were being taken by pretrial service agencies across the United States. We wanted to learn how various agencies had been impacted and understand in greater details how practices may have changed as a result of COVID-19.  In sharing this information broadly, we can learn from one another and start a conversation for how we can be better prepared for the future. Understanding how practices have been modified pre-and-post- COVID-19, will help us assess whether the beneficial policies and practices being implemented have potential for expansion and to understand what future reforms are possible. To access the survey results, please click here.  

Since the 1980s, increasing numbers of individuals entering into the criminal justice system have caused criminal justice professionals and researchers concern about the phenomenon of individuals continually returning to the system. It is possible that identifying and addressing needs in the pretrial stage of the criminal justice system could interrupt this cycle and contribute to pretrial success. Furthermore, attention to gender-responsive needs at this stage of the criminal justice process may prove beneficial for female pretrial defendants. This study contributes to both the pretrial and gender-responsive literature by investigating whether pretrial needs are predictive of pretrial outcomes and if there are gender differences in these needs. Results indicate that many of the examined needs are risk factors for pretrial failure, there are gender differences in the composition of several of these needs, and gender-responsive pretrial needs are important to predicting pretrial outcomes.

Section 2 covers the same content as Section 1

This 32-hour program is designed to enhance the leadership capacity and promote sound pretrial release practices of pretrial professionals with decision-making responsibilities. The program incorporates the National Association of Pretrial Service Agencies (NAPSA) Pretrial Release Standards with cutting-edge organizational and leadership strategies.

The program will provide participants with a collaborative learning environment for addressing the practical challenges facing pretrial release executives every day. In addition, the program will focus on enhancing participants’ knowledge and skills, strengthening networking among attendees and other pretrial professionals, and creating a learning and problem-solving environment through peer interaction and discussion between faculty and participants.

Eligibility Requirements: Pretrial release agency professionals with decision-making responsibilities and who have a minimum of one year of experience in a high-level management position.

Assurance: Please note that by applying for this program, you acknowledge that (1) you meet the eligibility requirements for the training, and (2) that your supervisor supports your application for, and attendance at, this training, if selected.

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)

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. 

Pretrial justice systems seek to maximize court appearance and community well-being and safety. In fact, these are the only two outcomes that can legally be considered when deciding to release or detain a person during the pretrial phase. Fair, just, and effective pretrial justice systems strive to implement practices that help people succeed while on pretrial release. To do this, it’s essential to understand the effectiveness of common pretrial practices based on current research. APPR has developed a number of pretrial research summaries to meet this need. Read the resources that follow as you start assessing your jurisdiction’s policies and practices. Consider the summaries as you reflect on your local goals and values. Identify topics to explore more deeply. And consider the implications of what you learn on future pretrial advancements.


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