This first episode in the Community Relations season of the National Institute of Justice’s (NIJ’s) Just Science podcast series, is an Interview with Monica Sheppard, a research analyst, and Dr. Yamanda Wright, a research psychologist in RTI’s Transformative Research Unit for Equity (TRUE), who discuss reforming American pretrial policies.
Preparatory information for the interview notes that criminal justice researchers have examined the racial and economic disparities in American incarceration, particularly in determining pretrial detention. In the current interview with the two researchers, the discussion focuses on racial and socioeconomic disparities in the pretrial system and ways that the project Advancing Pretrial Policy and Research (APPR) is addressing this issue. The discussion in the interview is on the importance of having a structure of objective research that both informs pretrial decisions and programs for arrestees and ensures that race/ethnicity and socioeconomic status are not primary factors in pretrial decisions and programming. Recognizing that pretrial arrestees’ guilt has not yet been determined in the charged crime, the pretrial focus should be on a reasonably reliable likelihood that the arrestee will attend subsequent case proceedings (whether to incarcerate arrestees who are at high risk of nonappearance at subsequent criminal justice proceedings) and that they are not a high risk to public safety, based on known prior behavioral patterns. Such research that determines an arrestee’s risk for pretrial problem behaviors can reduce the likelihood that pretrial decisions will focus on race/ethnicity and socioeconomic status. The interview focuses on the interviewees’ involvement in the importance of and the features of such pretrial research.