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Kentucky Pretrial Risk Assessment Instrument Validation

NCJ Number
James Austin; Roger Ocker; Avi Bhati
Date Published
October 2010
17 pages

This study determined the extent to which the current risk assessment instrument used by the Kentucky Pretrial Services Agency (KPSA) is valid.


The assessment found that the current 13-item instrument is producing a strong association between the risk levels of low, moderate, and high and failure to appear (FTA) at pretrial hearings or a re-arrest for a new crime while under pretrial release status. The majority of the released defendants were either low (45 percent) or moderate risk (22 percent) to either FTA or be re-arrested while under pretrial release. The data files examined also contained information on the use of special conditions with which an arrestee must comply during the pretrial period, such as drug testing and special monitoring requirements. The assessment focused on arrestees who were assessed as low risk but were also required to comply with special conditions, which composed approximately half of the special-condition populations. These low-risk cases were found to have higher failure rates than the "average" low-risk pretrial release. Although it could not be determined that the special conditions caused the higher failure rates, the statistical association suggests that imposing such special conditions is not beneficial. The KPSA's risk assessment instrument was designed from other pretrial risk assessment instruments that had been validated in other jurisdictions, but until the current assessment, Kentucky's instrument had not been validated by an external agency. The current assessment analyzed data on the Kentucky pretrial release population in determining the extent to which the instrument needed to be modified and, if so, what items needed to be dropped and what additional items should be introduced into a modified instrument. 12 tables and 3 figures