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Law Enforcement's Leadership Role in the Pretrial Release and Detention Process

NCJ Number
Susan Weinstein
Danielle Ouellette
Date Published
February 2011
18 pages

This paper examines the role of law enforcement in the pretrial release and detention process.


The primary recommendation from the focus group evaluating the problems associated with pretrial release and detention is that "law enforcement should and can play a critical role in supporting and guiding rational criteria for pretrial release and in helping to reduce system failures." The group notes that this role can occur only if law enforcement executives know two things: 1) they are aware of and fully understand the law, policies, and practices of pretrial release in their jurisdictions; and 2) they appreciate their role as critical stakeholders in helping to influence pretrial policy. This report begins with an introduction to the problem of releasing dangerous suspects back into the community who pose a significant threat to police officers and the general public without input from the police. The next section presents background information on the pretrial release and detention system by first examining the history of the bail system; discussing the current pretrial system; presenting case law, statutes, and studies about the pretrial release system; and examining the commercial bail system and how it works. The third section of the paper discusses the goals of pretrial services programs that include the supervision of the defendant and public safety, minimizing fugitive status, preventive detention, defendant accountability, and cost savings for police department and the courts. The fourth section then examines law enforcement's role in the pretrial release and detention process and presents a list of questions that should be considered in formulating departmental policy. Appendix