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Implementing the Recommendations of the National Symposium on Pretrial Justice: The 2013 Progress Report

NCJ Number
Date Published
March 2014
38 pages
This progress report shows the achievements made in 2013 in implementing recommendations developed at the Attorney General's 2011 National Symposium on Pretrial Justice.
The main problem addressed in the recommendations is that the current pretrial system does not promote public safety, fair and equal treatment of defendants, or the effective use of community resources. It is a system based on a defendant's financial resources, not their measured risk. In addition, only 5 percent of all arrestees ultimately go to prison; yet almost 50 percent of those arrested are incarcerated pending the outcome of their cases. The seriousness of this circumstance is made clear by research that shows even short periods of pretrial detention of low- and moderate-risk defendants increase their likelihood of committing crimes in the future. Progress made in addressing this problem focuses on implementing seven recommendations from the conference. First use citation releases by police in lieu of custodial arrests for nonviolent offenses when the individual's identity is confirmed and the risk is low for failure to miss court appointments. Second, eliminate the use of bond schedules that allow a defendant to bond out of jail before a bail hearing. Third, screen criminal cases by a prosecutor before the initial court appearance so as to ensure that the charge before the court at the hearing is the charge on which the prosecutor will move forward. Fourth, ensure the presence of defense counsel at the initial appearance. Fifth, train judicial officers who make pretrial decisions at the initial court appearance. Sixth, guarantee a risk assessment for all defendants in custody awaiting the initial court appearance. Require detention without bail for defendants who pose unmanageable risk to public safety or to appear in court. Seventh, State statutes should make available the use of detention without bail for defendants who pose substantial risk to public safety and failure to appear at court.