Recap of “Sense and Nonsense About the Pretrial Period and Its Reform”

Visual representation of legal proceedings with a defendant gesturing in questioning stance opposite a prosecuting attorney, reflecting themes of pretrial procedures and reform discussed in the article.

In this blog, we provide a recap of the article by Professor Matt DeLisi published in The Journal of Offender Monitoring Volume 36.

Professor DeLisi delves into the intricate world of pretrial procedures, focusing on the concepts of bail and bond, their significance, and the reforms surrounding them. The article discusses the distinction between unsecured and secured bonds, shedding light on how these mechanisms operate within the criminal justice system.

As well, the author emphasizes the critical role of behavioral criteria in determining whether a defendant receives an unsecured or secured bond, highlighting factors such as criminal history, charges’ seriousness, and community ties. We’ve condensed it into three main categories: pretrial detention & cash bail effects, alternatives to monetary bail conditions, and racial disparities.

Pretrial Detention & Cash Bail Effects

One of the central themes explored is the impact of pretrial detention and cash bail on subsequent legal outcomes. The article underscores that pretrial detention can lead to negative consequences for defendants, including increased guilty pleas, convictions, jail confinement, prison sentences, recidivism, and institutional misconduct. Moreover, it discusses how demographic factors like race can influence pretrial outcomes but stresses the importance of considering legal criteria to avoid biases. The author stated the following:

  • Pretrial detention is associated with more recidivism, increased probation instead of remand, and receiving credit for time served leading to release from custody.
  • Studies show that African American defendants tend to have higher bond amounts, but there are no race differences in terms of pretrial detention, prison, and prison sentences. Notably, female defendants receive advantageous outcomes compared to male defendants.

Alternatives to Monetary Bail Conditions

The article also delves into the imposition of alternatives to monetary bail conditions for defendants. It outlines various conditions that can be imposed to ensure defendants’ compliance while on bond, such as sobriety monitoring, counseling, and other services. Additionally, it explores research findings on the effectiveness of these alternatives in reducing pretrial failures among defendants with different risk levels. The article points out that:

  • Various conditions are imposed on defendants for behavioral functioning on bond, including sobriety monitoring, counseling, and other services.
  • Federal criminal justice systems provide nine alternatives to detention like substance use testing and mental health treatment through a third-party custodian.
  • Evaluation of the effectiveness of alternatives to detention in the federal system revealed that low-risk clients were more likely to experience pretrial failure compared to those released without the program, but moderate- and high-risk clients were less likely to experience pretrial failure compared to defendants released without the program.

Racial Disparities in Pretrial Decisions

A significant portion of the article scrutinizes how new bail reform measures have impacted racial disparities among pretrial detainees and in bail decisions. It critiques certain reform initiatives that overlook behaviorally relevant criteria in favor of social justice considerations. The text highlights studies that indicate racial disparities can be mitigated when legal criteria are specified in pretrial decisions. The studies presented show that:

  • Risk assessment tools do not use race or ethnicity but employ behavioral criteria empirically associated with offending, recidivism, and noncompliance. These tools predict pretrial outcomes similarly across sex and racial groups.
  • Actuarial risk assessment tools predict pretrial outcomes based on behavioral criteria and operate similarly across demographic categories due to capturing behavioral differences in the population.
  • Disparities in criminal justice outcomes by race assume parity in criminal offending by race. There is not parity. Official data from the FBI Uniform Crime Reports indicate significant overrepresentation of African Americans in serious criminal offenses compared to their proportion of the population.
  • Research suggests that race differences in pretrial outcomes may not solely stem from bias or discrimination but can be influenced by factors like criminal history and offense seriousness. Studies have also shown that legal criteria can render race effects on pretrial detention, release, bail amounts, and prison sentences non-significant.

Recommendations for Improving Pretrial Phase

DeLisi concludes by offering recommendations for enhancing the pretrial phase to address racial and socioeconomic disparities effectively. The article suggests releasing moderate-risk clients to a greater extent with appropriate conditions in place, while detaining more dangerous defendants to aid in public safety. Furthermore, it advocates for an evidence-based approach to pretrial release using objective risk assessment tools to predict success or failure accurately.

Enhancing Community Supervision with Electronic Monitoring

Judges and agencies must assess community risk, facilitate court appearances, and monitor defendants throughout the adjudication process. BI Incorporated supports agencies with electronic monitoring systems that are effective, flexible, and fair alternatives to jail. We offer multiple systems, intuitive software platforms for officers, and mobile apps to keep defendants engaged in the court process. Whether it’s the pretrial or post-release phase, this continuum of solutions supports agencies in implementing effective pretrial strategies while enhancing individual accountability.

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