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Implementing Risk Assessment in the Federal Pretrial Services System

NCJ Number
Federal Probation Volume: 75 Issue: 2 Dated: September 2011 Pages: 30-34
Timothy P. Cadigan; Christopher T. Lowenkamp
Date Published
September 2011
5 pages
The Pretrial Risk Assessment (PTRA), which has been implemented in almost all Federal districts, is assessed in the context of the pretrial risk-assessment literature, along with how its implementation has proceeded in the Federal system to this point, as well as its impact on the Federal pretrial services system and whether it has affected officer recommendations for release/detention and/or release rates after a year or more since implementation.
Early results from the first 3 months of implementation in the two pilot districts (Nebraska and North Carolina Western) showed that the PTRA increased officer recommendations in favor of release, which was a desired goal of the PTRA; however, the early pilot results showed no impact from the PTRA on actual pretrial release rates. Then, in the first year of operation, after excluding immigration cases for January 1, 2010, through December 31, 2010, the Western District of North Carolina increased recommendations for release 13.5 percent and increased the number of defendants actually released by 6.1 percent. Under the same conditions and time frame, the District of Nebraska increased recommendations for release 2.0 percent and increased the number of defendants actually released by 1.4 percent. These are significant trends for the pilot districts. As of June 2011, there were 72 districts using the tool on all cases; 87 districts had been trained and certified in using the PTRA, and 6 districts had yet to be trained. National implementation was completed in almost all 93 districts by August 2011. The only remaining concern in the implementation is the pace of districts using the tool on all cases. Unfortunately, the PTRA is averaging approximately 4,000 per quarter, leaving 22,000 reports without PTRA scores. 2 tables and 24 references