Saturday, December 08, 2007

More NCJRS Abstracts, December 8, 2007


NCJ Number: 220403
Title: Pretrial Services in the Federal System: Impact of the Pretrial Services Act of 1982
Journal: Federal Probation Volume:71 Issue:2 Dated:September 2007 Pages:10 to 15
Author: Timothy P. Cadigan

This paper reviews the impact of the Federal Pretrial Services Act of 1982 (the ACT) 25 years after its enactment. The paper concludes that the ACT has largely achieved its major goals. It has significantly increased the number of pretrial services reports provided to judicial officers at the time of the pretrial release decision. It has also maintained reductions in failure-to-appear and rearrests of individuals given pretrial release in the Federal system; and the ACT has reduced the Federal system's reliance on financial surety bonds. The one issue that the ACT has not addressed successfully is unnecessary pretrial detention. During the 25 years since the ACT was passed, pretrial detention in the Federal system has increased significantly. Reasons for this trend include changes in defendants' characteristics; changes in the bail laws, including provision for preventive detention; expansion of the Federal role in drug prosecutions; and changes in the sentencing laws that are likely to reduce pretrial release rates. In order to address the factors that have increased unnecessary pretrial detention, this paper recommends establishing a Pretrial Detention Task Force that will assess the problems presented by pretrial detention and develop a long-term plan that will assist the Federal judiciary in addressing factors that have increased pretrial detention. A second recommendation is that the Office of Probation and Pretrial Services examine the effectiveness of district compliance with the ACT. A third recommendation is that a Best Practices program be implemented in districts to show that pretrial release rates can be improved in the face of difficult challenges. Another recommendation is that the Office of Probation and Pretrial Services improve its cooperation with the Office of Federal Detention Trustee in sharing costs and personnel for developing and testing alternatives to pretrial detention. 8 tables and 4 notes

NCJ Number: 220404
Title: Our Journey Toward Pretrial Justice
Journal: Federal Probation Volume:71 Issue:2 Dated:September 2007 Pages:20 to 25
Author: Marie VanNostrand; Gena Keebler

In assessing progress toward pretrial justice in the Federal system, this paper addresses bail policy and practice, the rights of accused persons awaiting trial, the role of pretrial services, and strategies for improving progress in pretrial justice. After considering Federal and State court system data for the past 10-15 years, this paper concludes that in the United States liberty prior to trial, when innocence remains assumed, is not the norm for accused persons. In the Federal system, 61 percent of charged persons are detained. In the State court systems, 38 percent of accused persons are detained, with nearly two-thirds of jail inmates awaiting trial. A key strategy for reversing this trend involves the education of both criminal justice professionals and citizens in the nature of pretrial justice. They must be informed about the rights of accused persons pending trial and the true purpose of bail. A promising development is the Pretrial Services Legal and Evidence Based Practices (LEBP). LEBP is defined as interventions and practices that are consistent with the legal and constitutional rights afforded to accused persons awaiting trial. It relies on methods that research has proven to be effective in decreasing failures to appear in court and danger to the community from charged persons who are free in the community prior to any official determination of guilt. Research has identified the use of an objective and research-based risk assessment instrument as a critical tool for achieving pretrial justice. The results of the risk-assessment screening with such an instrument should be used to formulate a bail recommendation. The bail recommendation should include the least restrictive terms and conditions that will reasonably ensure that a defendant will appear for court hearings and not pose a danger to the community if released while awaiting trial. 4 figures and 15 notes

NCJ Number: 220405
Title: Pretrial Services Outcome Measurement Plan in the Federal System: Step One, Improve Data Quality
Journal: Federal Probation Volume:71 Issue:2 Dated:September 2007 Pages:26 to 30
Author: Laura Baber ; Margaret Mowry; Timothy P. Cadigan

As the first step in implementing an outcome measurement system for Federal pretrial services, this paper discusses improvement in data quality. The goal for data-quality improvement should be the consistent achievement of acceptable levels of data errors, which experts in the field consider to be no more than 1 or 2 percent of the total. After providing an overview of the design of the outcome measurement system for Federal pretrial services, this paper summarizes what is being done to reach this goal. In 2005, the Office of Probation and Pretrial Services established a committee of chiefs, supervisors, officers, technical personnel, and data-quality analysts from probation and pretrial services offices in various districts. This working group is focusing on how data quality should be defined and how to communicate this information to the districts. It has established a Web site that provides standard data-quality reports to the districts in an effort to achieve compliance with a national standard. The strategy is for each district to create its own data-quality improvement program. In advancing this effort, the data-quality working group developed the District Data Quality Program Development Guide, which provides a step-by-step process for a district in developing its data-quality program. This paper outlines the suggested steps. Planning for training in data-quality improvement has focused on how to prepare data-entry staff to enter data accurately and how to identify data entered inaccurately. In an effort to monitor data-quality improvement in the districts, the Office of Probation and Pretrial Services attempts to conduct 20 program reviews annually. These reviews are designed to assist districts in identifying and addressing problems in existing policies and practices for collecting and entering data. 1 figure

NCJ Number: 220406
Title: Impact of the Federal Pretrial Services Act of 1982 on the Release, Supervision, and Detention of Pretrial Defendants
Journal: Federal Probation Volume:71 Issue:2 Dated:September 2007 Pages:31 to 38
Author: James Byrne; Jacob Stowell

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

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