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Pretrial Services Programs: Responsibilities and Potential

NCJ Number
Date Published
March 2001
129 pages
This report describes how pretrial services programs operate and discusses related policy issues, with emphasis on how these programs obtain and convey information relevant to the pretrial release or detention decision and how programs can help manage and minimize the risks of nonappearance and pretrial crime.
The core of pretrial services program operations is the collection, verification, and analysis of information about newly arrested defendants and available supervisory options. Defendants are the primary source of information about themselves. Other sources can provide information about the defendant and can verify information provided in interviews with the defendant. Programs use varied monitoring and reminder techniques to anticipate and avoid possible nonappearance problems. Programs collect information that can be useful to other justice agencies, but much of this information is sensitive and personal. Therefore, programs need realistic policies that ensure appropriate confidentiality and prevent misuse of the information. Major issues for the future include how to bring effective pretrial services to jurisdictions that do not yet have them, handle pretrial release issues in cases involving juveniles charged as adults, and use new technology to enhance the quality of decision making and the supervision of released defendants. Additional issues include how to more effectively structure judicial decision making without making the process a mechanical one, develop a current base of useful knowledge, and develop a full range of education and training programs for pretrial practitioners and policymakers. Lists of national and State organizations and associations, potential Federal funding sources, and local and State pretrial services programs and practitioners; appended program materials from several jurisdictions; and 38 references

Date Published: March 1, 2001