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Classifying Pre-Trial Detention Decisions Under the Bail Reform Act of 1984: A Statistical Approach

NCJ Number
American Criminal Law Review Volume: 30 Issue: 2 Dated: (Winter 1993) Pages: 255-336
J F Williams
Date Published
82 pages
Under the Bail Reform Act (BRA) of 1984, courts are now authorized to deny bail to defendants for reasons of community safety; the BRA thereby departed from prior Federal bail law, which imposed bail only to ensure the appearance of the defendant at trial or to protect the integrity of the judicial process.
To determine what factors or combination of factors may predict the court's detention decisions, this author used two statistical techniques, percentaging and classification and regression tree (CART) analysis. Pre-trial detention factors listed in the BRA can be categorized as individual characteristics and those related to the nature of the violation. Using percentaging, the author constructed three clear zones related to each case's pre-trial detention quotient (PDQ), or probability of detention. The decision tree constructed through CART analysis can be used to predict the court's detention decision in five common situations which account for 80 percent of the sample of cases used here. The CART analysis indicates that courts often place considerable weight on charge-related predictive factors as well as the defendant's character and employment status. 2 figures, 217 notes, and 2 appendixes


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