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Impact of the Federal Pretrial Services Act of 1982 on the Release, Supervision, and Detention of Pretrial Defendants

NCJ Number
Federal Probation Volume: 71 Issue: 2 Dated: September 2007 Pages: 31-38
James Byrne; Jacob Stowell
Date Published
September 2007
8 pages
After examining the changing patterns of Federal pretrial release, detention, and supervision since the enactment of the Federal Pretrial Services Act of 1982 (the ACT), this paper discusses the changing profile of the Federal offender and the emerging role of technology and treatment in Federal pretrial release, supervision, and detention decisions.
Although the ACT has expanded the role of the Federal probation system to include the pretrial release and supervision of Federal defendants, there is considerable variation among districts in the use of pretrial detention, the use of restrictive pretrial release conditions, and the use and funding of pretrial treatment for defendants with substance abuse and mental health problems. However, the overall pretrial detention rates are high for federal defendants, to the point of suggesting a "presumption of detention" for most categories of Federal defendants. This paper considers two possible explanations for the high pretrial detention rates: changing offender profiles, particularly the greater proportion of immigration, drug, and weapons defendants; and changing detention policies. It concludes that although both of these factors are influential in higher rates of pretrial detention, pretrial detention policies have the greatest influence. The authors argue that recent technological innovations provide an opportunity to monitor and control defendants in the community without negative consequences for either court processing (failure-to-appear rates) or danger to the community due to new crimes by defendants during pretrial release. For defendants on pretrial release, it is reasonable to develop supervision strategies that monitor compliance with control-oriented release conditions. 3 tables, 3 figures, and 17 references