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Evaluation of Federal Pretrial Services Agencies' Impact on Pretrial Decisions and Outcomes

NCJ Number
Date Published
January 1987
29 pages
This evaluation of pretrial services agencies (PSA's) in 10 demonstration Federal district courts indicates the PSA's did achieve changes in pretrial release conditions through changes in judicial decisionmaking.
The 1986 Federal Bail Reform Act specifies release on recognizance as the preferred potential pretrial release condition. The 1974 Speedy Trial Act established experimental PSA's in 10 demonstration districts to make bail recommendations; supervise and control persons released on bail; provide pretrial services; and help in reducing pretrial crime, nonappearances for trial, and unnecessary pretrial detention. This evaluation of PSA's involved a secondary analysis of data provided by the administrative office of the U.S. courts. The data included information collected by PSA's on individual defendants for 1976-1981 and data on convicted defendants for 1973-1976. The independent variables examined were a combination of legal and extralegal factors indicated by past research to influence the pretrial release decision. The dependent variables were the final release condition, the probability of release, and pretrial misconduct. A time series analysis was completed to consider the changes in type of release conditions and the rate of release for defendants prosecuted in the 10 experimental districts compared to those in 5 experimental districts. PSA's can increase the likelihood that judges will consider pretrial release factors formerly ignored. Pretrial release decisions increased without a consequent increase in pretrial crime or nonappearances for trial. Appended description of bail and bail practices, 4 notes, and 19 references.

Date Published: January 1, 1987