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Pretrial Release Decision Making Process: Goals, Current Practices, and Challenges

NCJ Number
J Clark; D A Henry
Date Published
20 pages
This paper reviews the efforts made over the past 30 years to identify the best ways of achieving the goals of maximizing release while minimizing misconduct.
In the past 30 years, some progress has been made in achieving the objective of an improved pretrial decision-making process through limiting pretrial decision-making to qualified officials, basing decisions on relevant and accurate information, and having available reasonable and appropriate pretrial release options. Many statutes have clearer pretrial release provisions that specify the factors to be considered, the options available, and the priority in using them to check defendants' pretrial misconduct. Through improved information systems and the establishment of pretrial services agencies, more information is available about the defendant's background and risks of pretrial misconduct. Recognition that certain conditions, such as drug treatment, supervision, alcohol and domestic abuse counseling, can control defendants' likelihood of misconduct has resulted in the expansion of options that are available to the pretrial release decision-maker. This progress, however, has been inconsistent across jurisdictions. In many jurisdictions, judicial officers continue to set money bail, thus ensuring that commercial bail bonding agents still play a prominent role in deciding who will be released before trial. In short, improved pretrial decision-making has not been universally achieved. 94 footnotes and a summary of 1992 National Pretrial Reporting Program data by site