U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

NCJRS Virtual Library

The Virtual Library houses over 235,000 criminal justice resources, including all known OJP works.
Click here to search the NCJRS Virtual Library

Pretrial Services in the Federal System: Impact of the Pretrial Services Act of 1982

NCJ Number
Federal Probation Volume: 71 Issue: 2 Dated: September 2007 Pages: 10-15
Timothy P. Cadigan
Date Published
September 2007
6 pages
This paper reviews the impact of the Federal Pretrial Services Act of 1982 (the ACT) 25 years after its enactment.
The paper concludes that the ACT has largely achieved its major goals. It has significantly increased the number of pretrial services reports provided to judicial officers at the time of the pretrial release decision. It has also maintained reductions in failure-to-appear and rearrests of individuals given pretrial release in the Federal system; and the ACT has reduced the Federal system's reliance on financial surety bonds. The one issue that the ACT has not addressed successfully is unnecessary pretrial detention. During the 25 years since the ACT was passed, pretrial detention in the Federal system has increased significantly. Reasons for this trend include changes in defendants' characteristics; changes in the bail laws, including provision for preventive detention; expansion of the Federal role in drug prosecutions; and changes in the sentencing laws that are likely to reduce pretrial release rates. In order to address the factors that have increased unnecessary pretrial detention, this paper recommends establishing a Pretrial Detention Task Force that will assess the problems presented by pretrial detention and develop a long-term plan that will assist the Federal judiciary in addressing factors that have increased pretrial detention. A second recommendation is that the Office of Probation and Pretrial Services examine the effectiveness of district compliance with the ACT. A third recommendation is that a Best Practices program be implemented in districts to show that pretrial release rates can be improved in the face of difficult challenges. Another recommendation is that the Office of Probation and Pretrial Services improve its cooperation with the Office of Federal Detention Trustee in sharing costs and personnel for developing and testing alternatives to pretrial detention. 8 tables and 4 notes