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Using Research to Improve Pretrial Justice and Public Safety: Results from PSA's Risk Assessment Validation Project

NCJ Number
Federal Probation Volume: 77 Issue: 1 Dated: June 2013 Pages: 28-32
Spurgeon Kennedy; Laura House; Michael Williams
Date Published
June 2013
5 pages
This article presents a descriptive overview of a new pretrial assessment instrument developed by the Pretrial Services Agency for the District of Columbia (PSA).
The new risk assessment continues PSA's commitment to basing its operations and practices in evidence-based research. By more closely aligning release and detention recommendations with factors associated with failure-to-appear (FTA) and rearrest, the new risk assessment will improve the PSA's ability to predict defendant misconduct and target supervision resources accordingly. The new assessment will also enable PSA to define and assess "risk" in different ways. This further tailors recommendations and supervision to specific types of potential misconduct. The new risk assessment, maintains the best features of the current tool, such as automatic calculation of separate FTA and rearrest risk levels, use of risk-factor information routinely obtained during the PSA investigation, and internal quality control protocols. In addition, the new instrument examines nearly twice the number of risk factors as the current tool. It also assesses each defendant's specific risk to commit new dangerous, violent offenses. Another advantage of the new assessment tool is its more accurate gauge of a wider variety of pretrial misconduct. This achieves better matching of higher risk defendants with appropriate supervision levels, improves identification of defendants who could be released safely with no supervision or minimal monitoring, and better pretrial release and detention decisionmaking. Another important feature of the new risk assessment instrument is that it calculates risk models or different outcomes, including FTA, any rearrest, domestic violence, and dangerous behavior. The outcome for each model will have a risk level and a risk score. This article also describes the independent expert review of the design, methodology, analysis, and validity of the new instrument. The implementation phase is described as well. 2 tables and 1 figure