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NCJ Number
Federal Probation Volume: 57 Issue: 1 Dated: (March 1993) Pages: 4-8
V L Broderick
Date Published
5 pages
Problems associated with the overuse of pretrial detention particularly in the Federal judicial system are outlined.
The number of pretrial detainees in the Federal system has doubled since 1988 and now stands at about 18,000. The main purposes of pretrial detention are to secure the appearance at trial of defendants who are flight risks and to protect the community from further criminal activity of the person charged. The adoption of mandatory minimum sentences by Congress prevents judges from imposing sentences they believe fit the crime and the criminal. The threat of harsh mandatory sentences increases the risk of flight so the decision to detain must be made more frequently. The risk of flight has also been increased where sentencing guidelines have ruled out the possibility of parole for certain crimes. Among the unfavorable consequences of the increase in pretrial detainees are: the incarceration of defendants who are not ultimately convicted, the strain on the capacity of detention facilities, the difficulty defense attorneys face in meeting with their clients as they are shuttled from one remote detention facility to another as well as the fear of eavesdropping in such facilities, the expense and burden of transporting prisoners to court, and, where supervision in the community is possible, the detention of nonviolent defendants who pose no risk to the community and who are not flight risks may harm society by the missed opportunity for rehabilitation.