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Pretrial Release Decision

NCJ Number
Date Published
January 1997
6 pages
This article examines the pretrial release decision-making process.
Pretrial release decision-making must reconcile the goals of releasing as many as possible of persons awaiting adjudication of pending criminal charges, and ensuring that these persons appear in court and do not pose a threat to the public or to any specific individual during pretrial release. Problems in striking that balance include: (1) One-half of the inmates in local jails have not been adjudicated; they are awaiting trial; (2) Failure-to-appear rates are substantially higher than they were in the 1960s and 1970s; (3) Financial bail is set in many felony cases, leaving the ultimate outcome of release or detention to defendants' ability to post the bail or hire a bonding agent; and (4) Minorities, especially African-Americans, are more likely to be detained and to be detained longer, and are less likely to be released by financial means. To improve pretrial decision-making, those shortcomings must be remedied and other issues addressed, namely: the disparity in release decisions and outcomes, better training in pretrial release matters for criminal justice personnel, more research into indicators of pretrial risk, and explanation for the continued use of bonding for profit as a pretrial release option. Notes

Date Published: January 1, 1997