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Limiting Preventive Detention Through Conditional Release: The Unfulfilled Promise of the 1982 Pretrial Services Act

NCJ Number
Yale Law Journal Volume: 97 Issue: 2 Dated: (December 1987) Pages: 320-340
B K Wanger
Date Published
21 pages
If the Federal 1984 Bail Reform Act is to be prevented from increasing the rate of pretrial detention on the grounds of dangerousness, pretrial release services and monitoring under the 1982 Pretrial Services Act must be improved.
The preventive detention provision of the 1984 Bail Reform Act, upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in United States v. Salerno (1987), permits Federal courts to detain defendants prior to trial on grounds of dangerousness. Indeed, since the passage of the act, pretrial detention has increased markedly. The 1982 Pretrial Services Act, on the other hand, was designed to improve pretrial services and monitoring such that pretrial release would be facilitated, even for high-risk persons. Overall, Federal courts have failed to implement effective pretrial services. Congress should hold oversight hearings on the Pretrial Services Act, require a detailed report from each district, and allocate funds to ensure the creation and high-quality performance of independent pretrial services agencies. The Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts should develop a nationwide reporting system to enable Federal courts to compare rates of detention, rates of crime on bail and failure to appear, and the availability and performance of pretrial services. The article also recommends other ways to improve pretrial services so as to reduce the need for pretrial detention. 107 footnotes.