Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Pretrial Release Programs Looking to Buy Some Facts

The Pretrial Justice Institute (PJI) sent out their monthly newsletter on Friday with a story about a new tool they have developed intended to help Pretrial Services Agencies identify the risk associated with a specific defendant. According to the PJI, this new tool, “The Pretrial Risk Assessment is an objective, quantifiable instrument that provides a consistent and valid method of predicting risk of failure-to-appear, new criminal arrest, and technical violations while on pretrial release.” As I read this, I could hardly hold back the laughter. To hear the words “objective, quantifiable and Pretrial Services” all in the same sentence is not only laughable but pretty amazing. Especially since nothing they do, especially in terms of their effectiveness, has been quantifiable by them. In fact, I recently read through the ongoing conversation on the “Facebookers Against Pretrial Release” Facebook page. This community of over 600 people talks of how they have been sitting around for months waiting for any kind of “proof, numbers or statistics” that backup any of the claims being made by Pretrial Service Agencies and their ability to lower jail populations and reduce costs. We all know from the Pasco County Florida example that doesn’t happen, let alone their inability to track defendants and lower their rates of recidivism.

In the hope of finally trying to justify their existence, Pretrial Agency supporters have developed this new tool based on research conducted by a company called Luminosity. Luminosity as a group is extremely pro-government sponsored pretrial release and obviously anti-bail…and to be honest, in my opinion, anything but objective in their research. So it looks to me that when supporters of Pretrial Release Services make their claims and attempt to show supporting statistics, they use biased, store-bought research that is tailored to give them the answers they want.

On the other hand, the research that we, the bail bond industry, have shared with legislators, bail agents, bail bond sureties and judges around the country is from the US Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics. The bail bond industry did not pay for this research, a group of bail bond insurance companies did not pressure politicians to conduct the survey, it was a completely objective look at what is the most effective and efficient form of pretrial release looking at all forms available. The amazing thing about the BJS research is that time after time, year after year, from the early 1990s through the early 2000’s, until the research was stopped and then conducted again in 2007, the results have been incredibly consistent. In fact, in each case government sponsored pretrial service agencies performed the weakest while private surety bail performed overwhelmingly the best. If you would like to review the results of the most recent Bureau of Justice Statistics, visit and download a FREE whitepaper.

I would love to hear your thoughts.

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