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Pretrial Services Programming at the Start of the 21st Century: A Survey of Pretrial Services Programs

NCJ Number
Date Published
July 2003
118 pages
John Clark; D. Alan Henry
This document provides the results of a survey of pretrial services programs.
Pretrial services programs have been providing bail-setting judicial officers with information and options for the release or detention of people accused of criminal offenses since the 1960's. The results of two previous surveys done in 1979 and 1989 have guided county boards and other funding agencies in their establishment or expansion of pretrial services programming. The third survey, conducted in 2001, consisted of 202 pretrial services. The results show that many new pretrial services programs have been initiated since the last survey in 1989; 44 percent of the programs participating in the current survey have been started since 1990. Thirty-four percent of programs started since 1990 are probation, compared to 27 percent in jails, and 24 percent in courts. The average staff size for a pretrial program is 18; 10 percent of programs have just 1 staff person, and 2 percent have more than 200. Although many of the services and practices specified by the American Bar Association and the National Association of Pretrial Services Agencies are present in a large percentage of programs, the survey results show that several other services and practices are not present in most programs. A majority of programs have a mission statement and operations manual to guide and instruct staff. Fewer than half the programs provide a structured training program for new staff. Pretrial services programs are beginning to address challenges brought on by two special populations of defendants, those that have a mental illness and those charged with domestic violence. Most pretrial programs use drug testing as a tool in supervision. About half use alcohol testing. Just over half use a combination of manual and automated systems to gather, store, and retrieve information. Programs that assess risks of pretrial misconduct in an exclusively subjective manner are more than twice as likely to have a jail population that exceeds its capacity than those programs that assess risk exclusively through an objective risk assessment instrument. 4 endnotes, bibliography, 3 appendices

Date Created: August 11, 2003