Pretrial Release

Most of the nation’s bail laws mandate – and NAPSA and the American Bar Association recommend through their respective standards –  defendants be released pretrial under the least restrictive conditions required to ensure the defendant attends all future court dates and does not commit any new law violations while out of custody pending case disposition. In most jurisdictions, “least restrictive” is defined as release back into the community, either on the defendant’s own recognizance or under court-ordered conditions of supervision. In addition to helping ensure the fair and prompt administration of justice, “pretrial release” allows a defendant to remain in the community providing for his/her family and aiding in his/her defense pending case disposition.  Pretrial release further ensures those defendants who do not pose a risk to the community are able to be released from custody even if they have no financial means. Research verifies that lower risk defendants detained unnecessarily during the pretrial process show a significant likelihood that their risk for recidivism increases as a result.

Pretrial release programs have operated successfully since the Manhattan Bail Project in 1961. Pretrial defendants are presumed innocent and the result of work done at the Vera Institute and the Manhattan Bail Project in the early 1960s showed that bail is seldom necessary.

The role of pretrial services programs changed after the passage of the federal Bail Reform Act of 1966, which required judges to consider several factors in determining individualized pretrial release. Rather than targeting only those defendants who could not afford to pay a financial bond, pretrial services programs would be responsible for providing information on all defendants to aid the judge in his or her release or detention decision-making process. The new law also created a presumption of release on the least restrictive conditions to ensure appearance in court. This led to pretrial services programs supervising defendants to ensure compliance with various condition of release. While most states followed the federal model and updated their bail laws to include a list of factors the court had to consider in making a pretrial release decision and a range of non-financial pretrial release options, most jurisdictions at the time lacked a pretrial services program to provide the required information and supervision to the courts.

Pretrial programs exist in Federal and local justice systems nationwide.  For years, we have seen a national focus shift to the area of better pretrial practices and a proliferation of new programs and practices across the country.  There is also a similar conversation being conducted in a number of international locales.  NAPSA is committed to making high functioning pretrial programs and/or practitioners that utilize evidence-based practices the norm throughout this country.  High functioning pretrial programs/practices are critical and essential components of our democratic system and are needed in justice systems in all of America's communities.  Who is or is not in jail should be a public safety decision driven by risk, not a business decision driven by profit or instinct

More about pretrial release is available at the links below: