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National Assoc of Counties Jail Population Management Officials Guide to Pretrial Services 2009

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Jail Population Management:
Elected County Officials’ Guide
to Pretrial Services
September 2009

Bureau of Justice Assistance
U.S. Department of Justice

Jail Population Management:
Elected County Officials’ Guide
to Pretrial Services

About NACo – The Voice of America’s Counties
The National Association of Counties (NACo) is the only national organization that represents county governments
in the United States. Founded in 1935, NACo provides essential services to the nation’s 3,068 counties. NACo advances issues with a unied voice before the federal government, improves the public’s understanding of county government, assists counties in nding and sharing innovative solutions through education and research, and provides
value-added services to save counties and taxpayers money. For more information about NACo, visit www.naco.org.
Jail Population Management: Elected County Ofcials! Guide to Pretrial Services

1

For more information on NACo’s Criminal Justice and Health programs, please contact:
Maeghan Gilmore
Program Director
Community Services Division
! Phone: (202) 942-4261
" Email: mgilmore@naco.org

To order copies of this publication or other materials from the Pretrial Justice Institute (PJI), please contact:
Mary-Kathleen Guerra
Senior Associate
Community Services Division
! Phone: (202) 942-4279
" Email: kguerra@naco.org

Written by Cherise Fanno Burdeen, PJI. This project was supported by Grant No. 2008-DD-BX-0701 awarded by
the Bureau of Justice Assistance. The Bureau of Justice Assistance is a component of the Office of Justice Programs, which also includes the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the National Institute of Justice, the Office of Juvenile
Justice and Delinquency Prevention, and the Office for Victims of Crime. Points of view or opinions in this document are those of the author and do not represent the official position or policies of the United State Department
of Justice. NACo and PJI are appreciative of their support.

Acknowledgements
NACo wishes to thank the following individuals for their time and contributions to the development of this
publication:
Paul Fitzgerald, Sheriff, Story County, IA
David Hudson, Sebastian County Judge, Fort Smith, AK
David Huffman, Sheriff, Catawba County, NC
Jack Mariano, Chairman of the County Commission, Pasco County, FL
Luther Parks, Vice Chairman/County Commissioner, Wilkes County, NC
Gordon Schrotenboer, County Commissioner, District 7, Ottawa County, MI
Ronald Wiborg, Senior Program Manager, Hennepin County, MN, and
Donald Murray, Senior Legislative Director, National Association of Counties
Preeti P. Menon, MA, Policy Advisor for Adjudication, Bureau of Justice Assistance, Office of Justice Programs,
US Department of Justice

2

National Association of Counties

What is the problem?
With shrinking budgets and growing jail populations, counties across the nation are facing tough
decisions on how to control county criminal justice costs while minimizing the effects on public
safety. According to national data, local governments spend more on criminal justice than state
governments or the federal government. Since
1982, the direct expenditure on criminal justice
by local governments has grown from almost
$21 billion to over $109 billion by 2006.1
Rising Jail Populations and the Impact on County
Budgets. There has been a significant rise in jail
populations since 1990, in spite of a significant
decrease in the reported crime rates during the
same period. The National Crime Victimization Survey, conducted by the Bureau of Justice
Statistics, reports that from 1994-2005, violent
1 Bureau of Justice Statistics’ Justice Expenditure and
Employment Extracts series.

crime rates have declined, reaching in 2005
their lowest level ever recorded. Compare this
against Chart One.2
The increase in jail population has come with
great cost to counties. Overall, counties have
seen more than a 500 percent increase in jail
spending since 1982. In 2006, voters struck
down an unprecedented majority of proposed
county jail construction projects.3
Who is Really in Jail? Despite the public perception that jails are full of dangerous, hardened,
or incorrigible criminals placed there as punishment for their crimes, national data on county
jails present a different picture. County jails primarily house pretrial defendants (Chart Two).
According to national data, two-thirds of jail
2 Bureau of Justice Statistics, Prison and Jail Inmates
at Midyear Series: 1990, 1992, 1994, 1998, 2000, 2002,
and 2004. U.S. Department of Justice.
3 “Most Jail Construction Projects Failed in 2006 Elections,” Correctional News 12/30/2006.

Chart One: Jail populations on rise
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Jail Population Management: Elected County Ofcials! Guide to Pretrial Services

3

Chart Two: Pretrial vs. sentenced populations
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inmates are in an un-convicted status, up from
just over half in 1996.4

4

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Overall, data show that of all the un-convicted
inmates in jail on any given day, almost 35%
have been charged with violent offenses, 22%
with property offenses, 23% with drug charges,
and 20% with public-order charges.5 For most
communities, those arrested have been arrested
before, and a very small number of arrestees are
making up a large majority of the arrests. In

Lincoln, Nebraska, police reported that the list
of individuals arrested 200 times or more had
tripled in a six-year period. An analysis done
in late 2007 in Athens-Clarke County, Georgia, showed that most of the male jail inmates
were on their tenth stay in jail, and one was on
his 112th. A majority of counties are spending
significant resources on a small number of individuals. Dealing more effectively with those individuals during the pretrial stage of the system
can translate into substantial cost savings.

4 Data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics’ Jail Inmates at Midyear series, 1996 – 2008.
5 Bureau of Justice Statistics. Special Report: Profile of
Jail Inmates, 2002. July 2004, U.S. Department of Justice.

Actions to address this can start as early as the
initial court appearance. The court has several options when faced with bail setting, based
solely on what the county provides via financial
and/or non-financial release.

National Association of Counties

Financial release options include:
# commercial surety bond (defendant pays fee
plus possibly collateral to bail agent),
# deposit bond to the court (defendant),
# full cash bond to the court (defendant), and
# property bond to the court (defendant).
Non-financial release options include:
# released on own recognizance,
# conditional/supervised release (to a pretrial
program), and
# unsecured bond (financial amount set but
nothing required up front).
While no national data are collected on the pretrial release practices for misdemeanants, data

are available for felony defendants. 6 Data show
that financial bail is now set in two-thirds of
felony cases nationwide, up from only half in
1990. As courts have imposed more and more financial bonds, the net result has been an increase
in jail populations. This is because 5 out of 6
felony defendants detained pretrial were unable
to post the financial bond ordered by the court.
As Chart Three illustrates, there was a flip in
1998, whereby pretrial release rates for felony defendants decreased to the same degree that the
use of money bail increased. These are not large
bond amounts – the most common bond set was
6 All data from this section was taken from or extrapolated from: Bureau of Justice Statistics. Pretrial Release
of Felony Defendants in State Courts, SCPS 1990-2004.
January 2008 revision, U.S. Department of Justice.

Chart Three: Relationship between setting
money bail and pretrial release rates
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Jail Population Management: Elected County Ofcials! Guide to Pretrial Services

5

under $10,000. With commercial surety bond,
the most common type of financial release, the
“decider” in these cases becomes any commercial surety agent in the community looking for
business; the factor being considered is the defendant’s ability to pay the fee and offer collateral.

The number of jail inmates, both felony and
misdemeanor, who are in an un-convicted status
and considered “releasable” by the court has significant effects on jail population management.
In a very short time, they become the primary
cause of a county’s need to expand jail capacity
by building expensive new facilities.

Of those released on non-financial conditions,
typically all go back to their communities to
work and to live within 24 hours of the court’s
decision. The county absorbs the cost of detaining anyone financially released by the court but
who cannot meet the financial release conditions. This trend is expected to continue, even
accelerate, as a result of the current economic
crisis across the country.

One effective strategy many counties use to reduce jail populations while maintaining community safety is an ideal pretrial services program.
NACo’s 2009 American County Platform calls
for counties to establish alternatives to money
bail such as pretrial services programs.

Why does this matter
to elected
county officials?
Elected county officials have
unique oversight of and responsibility for the local criminal justice
and social services systems. This
allows them to construct policies
that account for improvements
in both systems at the same time.
There is an opportunity present to
impact the pretrial population at
the jail, and do so without unnecessarily endangering public safety
and without usurping the roles
of other governments or their officials. This document provides a
set of recommendations that can
ensure local resources are wisely
used and that residents are protected from both victimization
and wasteful spending.
In order to be effective with frontend criminal justice resources, the
county must support an ongoing
jail population management collaborative. Data from all parts
of the system are vital to understanding the full scope of the
factors contributing to jail populations and should be routinely
provided to the collaborative. At
a minimum, law enforcement, jail

6

National Association of Counties

administrators, judges, court administrators, prosecutors and defenders should be members of the
collaborative.
The population of a jail is driven by two factors – the number
of admissions and the length of
stay. At the most basic level, jails
should be able to provide county
officials with figures on admissions, average length of stay, and
average daily population. With
this information, discussions
about safely reducing the population can begin. If there are subpopulations within the jail who
can be targeted for either release
before admission or reducing
their length of stay, they should
be identified. Given analysis
of national data, four times as
many defendants serve time pretrial than are incarcerated after
conviction,7 consuming costly
jail resources.
To ensure that jail operations
are effective and that the correct people are being held in jail,
county officials will need to continually engage in a process of
asking for and reviewing data. A
regular review of reports should
be an agenda item for the collaborative.

Average Pretrial Programs1
# Serve jurisdictions of 500,000 or less
# Half operate with 10 or fewer staff, administratively housed in courts or probation
# Annual budget of $500,000 or less
» Starting salary of a Program Director/Administrator is between $30,000 and $90,000,
depending on the size of the program. Sixty
percent of program directors make less than
$70,000.
» Most line staff’s starting salary is between
$30,000 and $40,000.
# 69% of programs interview defendants before initial bail setting appearance
# One-third interview more than 5000 defendants
per year, one-third 1000-5000 defendants per year,
and one-third interview 1000 or fewer
# Almost half have validated the risk assessment
instrument they use
# One-third call the defendant before the court
date
# More than half produce an annual public report
of performance
1 Pretrial Justice Institute, 2009 Survey of Pretrial Services Programs. Washington, DC.

Second, it would be beneficial for counties that
do not currently have a pretrial services program8 to look into implementing one; for counties that already have a pretrial program, managing it well should be a top priority.
7 Malcolm M. Feeley, The Process Is The Punishment:
Handling Cases In A Lower Criminal Court (1992).
8 National District Attorneys Association and the
American Bar Association both have published professional standards calling for the establishment of
pretrial services programs and the abolishment of
bail bonding for profit. NDAA’s National Prosecution Standards (1991) 45.1(c3) and ABA Standards
for Criminal Justice, Third Edition, Pretrial Release
(2002) 10-1.4.

What is an effective
pretrial services
program?
For the past 50 years, pretrial services programs
have helped assure that defendants appear for
court proceedings without wasting costly jail
beds on defendants who can safely be released.
Pretrial services programs play an important
role in helping judges make more informed bail
decisions by providing comprehensive information on each defendant. Through the use of research-based instruments to assess a defendant’s
likelihood to appear in court, remain arrest-free

Jail Population Management: Elected County Ofcials! Guide to Pretrial Services

7

while on pretrial release, and
need mental health or substance abuse treatment, pretrial services programs provide a
cost-effective and safe method
for recommending release into
the community. Once judges
reach their pretrial release decision, pretrial services programs supervise the defendant
in the community and notify
the courts of any violation of
release conditions.
Comprehensive pretrial services programs have the following
operational elements:
1. Screening of every person
arrested and booked into
county jail.
2. Interview and investigation of information
prior to a defendant’s first appearance before
a judge or magistrate or bail commissioner.
3. Use of research-based risk assessment instruments that guide appropriate release decisions and supervision conditions to assure
return to court and public safety (see Appendix C).
4. Supervision of pretrial release conditions and
regular reports to the court of both positive
and negative outcomes.
5. Reminder of court date shortly before it is to
occur.
Although operating a pretrial services program
may appear fiscally challenging for small or rural counties, there are many models for providing these services cost-effectively, such as establishing a multicounty program, partnering with
community- and faith-based organizations or
incorporating pretrial services within existing
structures such as jail administration or probation. A recent survey of existing pretrial services
programs shows that the number of counties utilizing multi-county programs doubled from 2001
to 2009.9 Most pretrial services programs serve
jurisdictions with populations of 500,000 or less.
9 Pretrial Justice Institute, 2009 Survey of Pretrial Services Programs. Washington, DC.

8

National Association of Counties

In central Virginia, eight
counties have pooled resources for pretrial services,
which are administered by
the nonprofit OAR/Jefferson
Area Community Corrections (OAR/JACC). Counties in Virginia have engaged
in comprehensive pretrial
services since the state enacted the Pretrial Services
Act in 1994. The act gave cities and counties state funding
to establish their own pretrial
services agencies to systematically improve the ability of
judicial officers to assess defendants’ risk to public safety
while assuring their appearance in court.
“Because OAR/JACC has a long history of successfully providing pretrial services, we as counties are able to take advantage of that expertise,
maximize our resources and achieve a higher
quality of service and effectiveness by working
with them,” says Albemarle County Executive
Bob Tucker. “Without this multicounty arrangement, it would be a challenge to provide the level
of services available through OAR/JACC.”
Albemarle County serves as the fiscal agent
for OAR/JACC’s pretrial services, but all of
the counties that partner with OAR/JACC are
represented on a Community Criminal Justice
Board that reviews monthly reports and quarterly narratives on the work and progress of
the organization’s pretrial services. OAR/JACC
dedicates six specially trained staff members to
pretrial services. They interview and screen defendants using Virginia’s validated risk-assessment tool on-site at two regional jails, complete
record checks, make recommendations to the
court and provide supervision to those who are
released under certain conditions, which often
include in-person visits, drug testing and substance abuse evaluation.
In 2007–08, the program completed roughly
1,200 interviews and pretrial investigations,
made recommendations to the court in half the
cases and received 687 placements for supervision. Of those under the supervision of OAR/

JACC, 85 percent successfully avoided re-arrest
and appeared in court for trial or sentencing —
better than the national average, according to
the Bureau of Justice Statistics.10 As a result, the
central Virginia counties saved hundreds of jailbed days, their most expensive criminal justice
resource.
Meaningful pretrial release supervision comes
with associated costs, but pretrial release programs are more cost-effective than jail for those
who can be safely supervised in the community.
A study in 2007 by the North Carolina Governor’s Crime Commission and Justice Analysis
Center11 collected data on 10 pretrial services
programs operating in the state (either county or
privately-run by a nonprofit). The following outlines the cost comparisons they found:
# The average daily number of individuals on
pretrial release: 174
# The average length of stay on pretrial release: 118 days
10 Pretrial Release of Felony Defendants in State Court:
State Court Processing Statistics, 1990-2004. Bureau of
Justice Statistics, Department of Justice. Washington,
DC, 2007.
11 Pretrial Service Programs in North Carolina: A Process and Impact Assessment. Department of Crime
Control and Public Safety, North Carolina Governor’s Crime Commission, October 2007.

# The average costs per person on pretrial release: $6.04 per day
# The average cost of jail: $57.30 per day
# Total cost of pretrial release for 118 days =
$123,870
# Total cost of jail if they had not been released = $1,175,131
# Average annual savings to counties: $1,051,261
Pretrial services programs provide for public
safety and can protect alleged victims and the
community-at-large by monitoring defendants
awaiting trial. According to national data, overall rates of appearances in court and the ability
to remain arrest-free while on release have varied
only slightly over the last two decades. Court appearance rates have consistently been between 76
and 79 percent for those released pretrial. Their
ability to remain arrest-free while pending trial
has ranged from 79 to 87 percent for both misdemeanors and felonies. For felonies alone, the
arrest-free rates are even higher, ranging from 8790 percent over the last 20 years.12 Programs that
meet national professional standards and that are
held accountable provide an invaluable service
to the county.
12 Pretrial Release of Felony Defendants. November
2007, Bureau of Justice Statistics, U.S. Department of
Justice.

Jail Population Management: Elected County Ofcials! Guide to Pretrial Services

9

How do you start a
program or improve
the one you have?
While statutes and laws vary by jurisdiction,
there are national professional standards that
pretrial services programs work to meet. The
American Bar Association, the National District Attorneys Association, and the National
Association of Pretrial Services Agencies have
published standards for pretrial release and diversion programs. In addition, there is a national certification available to pretrial professionals. More information on these is listed in the
Resources section at the end of this document.
Elected county officials can be instrumental in
starting a program if one does not currently
exist. There are several steps to follow to ensure
that you have all the information you need and
the program that is created is high functioning. The policies and procedures for the pretrial
stage must result from a collaborative process,
in which all criminal justice system stakeholders (including others such as victim advocates,
community health and treatment providers)

10

National Association of Counties

are involved and working towards consensus.
Regardless of the science behind your risk assessment instrument, defendants are human beings and thus true predictability is impossible.
A team that stands together in the face of adversity, as the result of the collaborative process,
has given counties the data and support that enables explanations for any systemic aberrations
that might occur, without placing blame on one
system actor or another.
First, understand the current release and detention decision-making process, in addition to collecting data. Who has the authority to do what?
Can you map out the flow of decisions and steps
in the front-end of your system? Second, through
the collaborative, establish a vision, the goals,
and objectives of the pretrial services program.
Ensure that these are reached through consensus, and that each stakeholder has a chance to
express their concerns and come to peace with
the decisions made by the group. Each stakeholder must be able to defend the program as if
he or she was its inventor – even if there are
things about it that were achieved by compromise. Work this process until it gets to a level of
cohesiveness.

Third, conduct the necessary administrative tasks:
# Determine the most efficient and effective
location for the program (under the sheriff,
at the jail, in probation, under court services, etc.).
# Determine the budget and staffing needs
based on the policies and procedures outlined via the collaborative.
» Ensure resources are provided for monitoring and reporting out on program
performance measures.
# Add additional staff as needed (there are
pretrial services trainings provided by national organizations and the federal government, and maybe some within your state as
well).

How do you manage
the collaborative and
the pretrial services
program?
Elected county officials can exercise a direct
management role of both jail population
management collaboratives and pretrial services programs. There are a series of questions
that criminal justice system stakeholders can
and should answer on a regular basis, regardless of the existence of either a collaborative
or a pretrial program. A report template can
be created and given to each system stakeholder for the purpose of contributing his or
her data on a monthly basis. This allows all
stakeholders to see how their work contributes to the overall management of the jail
population. Appendix A provides examples
of what can be asked, along with answers for
which you might strive.

Many pretrial services programs are measured
by failure to appear or re-arrest rates. A county
with a 1% failure to appear rate or a 2% re-arrest rate may seem high performing, until it is
discovered the pretrial program only interviews
half of those arrested and booked, and the judges only release 10% of those recommended. Digging deeper into the practices of pretrial services
programs, as well as the other system stakeholders mentioned before, can illuminate areas of
opportunity to save county resources by improving those practices.
Counties with pretrial services programs might
use Appendix B as a starting place for data collection.
A Case in Point – the District of Columbia
The District of Columbia Pretrial Services Agency (PSA) provides an example of a program that
tracks performance of the pretrial stage of the
DC justice system. DC has one of the oldest and
largest pretrial programs in the country. It has
a long and well-deserved reputation for providing quality services to its jurisdiction. In recent
years, PSA is nearing the end of an evolution

Measuring the performance of the local
criminal justice system as a whole, specifically the pretrial services program, should not
be reduced to a single outcome. What information should be used to understand if the
pretrial services program is working at an optimal level? How can the county official best
direct the county’s tight fiscal resources?

Jail Population Management: Elected County Ofcials! Guide to Pretrial Services

11

toward a “performance-based results-oriented
organization.”13 The mission of PSA reads: The
D.C. Pretrial Services Agency honors the constitutional presumption of innocence and enhances
public safety by formulating recommendations that
support the least restrictive and most effective nonfinancial release determinations, and by providing
community supervision for defendants that promotes court appearance and public safety and addresses social issues that contribute to crime.
Out of that mission, the program has identified
three goals:
1. Support judicial officers in making the most
informed and effective nonfinancial release
determinations throughout the pretrial period. PSA will formulate and recommend
to the courts the least restrictive release
conditions to assure that the defendant will
appear for all court dates and not pose a
threat to any person or to the community
while on release.
2. Provide effective monitoring or supervision of pretrial defendants, consistent with
release conditions, so that they return to
court and do not engage in criminal activity while under pretrial supervision.
3. Provide for, or refer defendants to, effective
substance abuse, mental health, and social
services that will assist in assuring that defendants return to court and do not pose a
danger to the community.
Two outcomes that the program tracks are the
percentage of defendants rearrested for violent
and drug crimes during the period of pretrial
release, and the percentage of cases in which a
defendant failed to appear for at least one court
hearing. The program has worked to make certain that it can provide that data. In PSA’s fiscal year 2008, 12% of defendants were rearrested
while on pretrial release. For released defendants, 2% committed a violent crime while on
release. Twelve percent of released defendants
failed to appear for at least one scheduled court
appearance.14
13 District of Columbia Pretrial Services Agen-

cy, Strategic Plan: FY 2005 – FY 2010.

14 DC Pretrial Services Agency FY2008 Organizational Assessment Report

12

National Association of Counties

While these are two very important outcomes
for any pretrial services program, PSA recognizes that there is a third, equally important, outcome – maximizing safe release.
As a result of PSA’s successful work to provide
high-quality services to the bench and the community, financial bail is used very sparingly in
the jurisdiction. The majority of defendants are
released on their own recognizance or to PSA
with conditions they monitor. The remaining
defendants, those for whom no conditions or
combination of conditions will suffice, are held
with no bail. Thus, a judge makes a decision,
aided by the information and options provided
by PSA, which results in the immediate release
or the assured detention of the defendant. They
do not use the practice that is typical in many
other counties whereby judges set high bail
amounts in hopes that the defendant will not be
able to post it, thus staying in jail.
The PSA works very closely with its funding authority, as well as with judges, prosecutors, defenders and other key local officials, to review
its work as it continuously strives to maintain
an effective balance of maximizing release and
minimizing failure. The key to their success
has been the ability to collect and report on
data in a time frame that can impact policies
and practices.

Conclusion
The role of the county official is essential in jail
population management, specifically through
the management of the pretrial population. It
is the county official who can take the lead to
establish or improve a jail population collaborative, bringing all system stakeholders together.
If pretrial services exist or are deemed to be a
needed service, the county official can play a
role in ensuring that the program is overseen
by informed managers, asking the right questions, and being committed to improving jail
functioning for the benefit of the community at
large. Committing to pretrial programs can save
county dollars and increase the functioning of
the local jails by releasing and supervising those
who pose manageable risk.

Resources
The Pretrial Justice Institute (PJI), in partnership with the National Association of Counties Research
Foundation (NACoRF) and with funding from the Bureau of Justice Assistance, is available to provide
free education, guidance and technical assistance on effective pretrial services to elected county officials
across the nation. For local assistance, elected county officials should contact Cherise Fanno Burdeen or
Timothy Murray at www.pretrial.org or 202-638-3080.
The American Bar Association, the National District Attorneys Association, and the National Association of Pretrial Services Agencies’ national standards on pretrial release and diversion can be found at
www.pretrial.org/Resources.
The National Association of Counties Research Foundation (www.naco.org) offers education and technical assistance for our nation’s counties in a variety of important issue areas, including criminal justice.
The American County Platform outlines NACo’s support for pretrial services. Through the platform,
NACo encourages alternatives to the money bail system such as release on recognizance and supervised
release programs, establishing quality intake and screening assessments to select persons for pretrial services and for data purposes, and greater use of non-financial pretrial release options. The American
County Platform suggests that it is the primary responsibility of the counties to ensure public safety and
at the same time protect the constitutional rights of convicted and pretrial persons.
Bureau of Justice Assistance Justice Assistance Grants (JAG). The JAG Program allows states, tribes,
and local governments to support a broad range of activities to prevent and control crime based on their
own local needs and conditions. JAG blends the previous Byrne Formula and Local Law Enforcement
Block Grant (LLEBG) Programs to provide agencies with the flexibility to prioritize and place justice
funds where they are needed most. Once a state’s funding is calculated, 60 percent of the allocation is
awarded to the state and 40 percent to eligible units of local government. States also have a variable percentage of the allocation that is required to “pass through” to units of local government. This amount is
based on each state’s crime expenditures. Additionally, the formula calculates direct allocations for local
governments within each state, based on their share of the total violent crime reported within the state.
Local governments that are entitled to at least $10,000 awards may apply directly to BJA for Local JAG
grants. One of the six JAG purpose areas is to support prosecution and court programs, which allows for
improving the operational effectiveness of the court process by expanding prosecutorial, defender and
judicial resources and implementing court delay reduction programs, including pretrial services.

Jail Population Management: Elected County Ofcials! Guide to Pretrial Services

13

Appendix A: Questions for Managing a
Collaborative

Suggested Question

14

Who Should
Answer

Ideal Answer and Why I Need
to Know as the Elected County
Official

Is there a written policy
about the issuance of
citations instead of arrest for
low-level offenses?

Law
Enforcement

Yes. They include having to
document any reason they arrest
instead of cite (over-riding the
policy). This is important because
even one day in jail, especially
the day of booking, is expensive.

Are there regular reports
that include specific data on
the average length of stay,
broken out by status (pretrial
vs. sentenced)?

Jail
Administrator

Yes. This provides details
regarding an expensive county
expenditure. It also identifies the
scope of the opportunity for cost
savings via pretrial services.

Does the report include
specific data about length of
stay by offense type?

Jail
Administrator

Yes. I need to know if my moreserious defendants are being
detained while those who would
probably receive probation or
a fine are needlessly being held
awaiting disposition.

Does the report (or any other
report) show the number of
jail beds currently leased
to the federal government
(including immigration), state,
and/or other counties?

Jail
Administrator

Yes. I need to know how much
revenue we are currently
generating so I can compare it to
the beds we could have available
if we had an ideal pretrial
services program. And I need to
know if I have to lease or add bed
capacity, how costs compare with
what others are paying for bed
space.

Does the report provide
specific data on costs
associated with overtime?

Jail
Administrator

Yes. Overtime costs our county
money.

Are these overtime costs due
to crowding or some other
issue?

Jail
Administrator

If it’s due to jail crowding, I should
explore if the crowding is due to
inefficiencies in, or ineffectiveness
of, our pretrial justice system.

Are there regular reports on
criminal case activity?

Courts

Yes. The number of cases brought,
dismissed and the speed of
case processing impacts jail
populations.

National Association of Counties

My Current
Answer

Suggested Question

Who Should
Answer

Ideal Answer and Why I Need
to Know as the Elected County
Official

Are there written policies
regarding the issuance of
continuances in criminal
cases? Do you know what
the policy is?

Courts

Yes. Delays in case processing for
defendants awaiting disposition
in jail cost the county more money
than those cases where the
defendant is on release.

Is there a regular court
docket for defendants
detained pretrial who have
been charged with low-level
offenses?

Courts

Yes. Moving cases faster when
the defendant is in jail can help
us save money. This is especially
true among those detained
pretrial who have served the
maximum sentence that would be
imposed.

Are there specialty courts?

Courts

Yes. Diversion has a direct impact
on both short term and long term
criminal justice costs.

Are they grant-funded or
locally funded?

Courts

Grant funded programs can
be a good way to pilot test an
idea, but ultimately, successful
programs must become part of
our general operations.

Do those courts increase
or decrease your jail
population?

Courts

Using jail as a sanction in
specialty courts, however, can
increase our jail costs and must
be closely monitored to measure
effectiveness and graduated
sanctions must be used.

Are bonds forfeited after
failure to appear?

Courts

Yes, otherwise funds the county
is entitled to through the contract
with the insuring agent will not be
realized. And if bonds are not
required to be forfeited when a
defendant fails to appear, there
is no incentive to return said
defendant.

Is court-appointed counsel
available to each defendant
at first appearance?

Defenders

Yes. The defense counsel
must be present to review the
pretrial interview and release
recommendation and advocate on
behalf of the defendant.

My Current
Answer

Jail Population Management: Elected County Ofcials! Guide to Pretrial Services

15

Suggested Question

16

Who Should
Answer

Ideal Answer and Why I Need
to Know as the Elected County
Official

Do they represent clients at
bail setting?

Defenders

Yes. This moves cases faster
and with less needless detention
pretrial.

Do they file motions to have
bail reduced?

Defenders

Yes. This moves cases faster
and with less needless detention
pretrial.

Are regular reports provided
on the activities of the
prosecutor’s office?

Prosecutor

Yes. Their policies can have an
unintended impact on county jail
costs.

Do the reports provide
specific data on the average
time between arrest and the
decision to formally charge?

Prosecutor

Yes. The length of time between
arrest and charging decision
has a direct impact on the jail
population – too long = high
pretrial populations if they are
not released to supervision. Early
screening (even casual) expedites
processes and typical dismissal
rates are around 50%.

Are there written policies for
prosecutors regarding bail/
pretrial release (i.e., bond
schedule, prohibition against
ROR for certain offenses)?

Prosecutor

Yes, because these policies have a
direct impact on jail populations.
Asking for bond in every case
impacts jail costs and public
safety.

Does your county have
diversion programs? Are they
pre or post-plea?

Prosecutor

Yes. Pre-plea diversion programs
allow for true diversion from
prosecution and a reduction
in the collateral consequences
of a criminal record. For many
charges, to delay the connection
to community-based services
(treatment, mental health) until
after the plea is economically
ineffective. The more individuals
in my county with a criminal
record, the lower my tax base.
Post-plea diversion programs
take longer than pre-plea,
thus consuming jail resources
needlessly.

Does the prosecutor prioritize
detention cases over those on
pretrial release?

Prosecutor

Yes. Those who have been
released by the court on bond but
not yet posted bond are costly
residents of the jails. Moving
those cases through the system
faster can reduce the costs.

National Association of Counties

My Current
Answer

Appendix B: Pretrial Data Collection Questions

Suggested Question

Who Should
Answer

Ideal Answer and Why I
Need to Know as the Elected
County Official

Are there regular
reports with specific
data about defendants
on pretrial release
(ROR, surety,
supervised release)?

Pretrial Services
Program or Court
Administrator or
Clerk of Courts or
Jail Administrator
– whoever is
responsible for
documenting the
release type.

Yes. How defendants are
released, and at what rate, have
cost implications for the county.

Pretrial Services
Program

Interviews of each and every
arrestee are conducted at
the jail, and information is
verified, in advance of the first
appearance/bail setting hearing.

Are all arrestees
screened to determine
appropriate pretrial
release options?

Pretrial Services
Program

Yes. Initial screening of
individuals at the time of arrest
allows the proper information to
be gathered and verified. This
information can then be used at
the bail setting hearing. It can
also be used to ensure people
with mental illnesses are not
released into the community
without being connected to
services. This increases public
safety.

Is a locally validated
pretrial risk assessment
instrument used?

Pretrial Services
Program

Yes. It was objectively validated
within the last three years.

Does the pretrial
program provide
supervision?

Pretrial Services
Program

Yes. Through call-ins, monitoring
of court conditions such as drug
testing or curfews, and possibly
in-person meetings.

Pretrial Services
Program

Yes. Other counties have shown
that simply reminding defendants
of their court date within 24
hours of that date can reduce
failures to appear.

How are defendants
identified for
alternatives to pretrial
detention?

Does the pretrial
program provide
proactive court date
reminders for those on
release?

My Current
Answer

Jail Population Management: Elected County Ofcials! Guide to Pretrial Services

17

Suggested Question

Who Should
Answer

Ideal Answer and Why I
Need to Know as the Elected
County Official

If the court provides
proactive notification,
how is that done?

Pretrial Services
Program

We use an automated calling
system, or a text-messaging
system.

Pretrial Services
Program

Yes. The pretrial program does
this within 30 days of their
first appearance or bail setting
hearing. They check to see if
those released by the court have
been released and if not, the
reason for their failure to be
released.

Pretrial Services
Program

We measure the performance
of that system in the following
ways: 1) percentage of arrestees
interviewed, 2) rate of and
time to release based on those
recommended for release,
3) rates of compliance with
pretrial release conditions, 4)
appearance rates for all court
events, and 5) crime-free rates
for those on release. They
also track the average length
of stay in jail for those in a
pretrial status and when they
rise above the baseline measure,
they examine the cause. They
also track the overall pretrial
vs. sentenced population of
the jail and when it rises above
our baseline, they examine the
cause. All this is done via the
Jail Collaborative.

Is there a review of
those who failed to
make bail? If so, after
how long?

How do we measure
the performance of the
pretrial stage of our
system?

18

National Association of Counties

My Current
Answer

Appendix C: Pretrial Risk Assessment
What is a pretrial risk assessment instrument?
While they differ from county to county, a risk assessment instrument (or tool) is typically a form (either
completed by hand or computerized) where information from the pretrial interview/investigation, criminal history records, and current offense are used to answer a set of questions. The goal is to assess the risk
that the defendant will be re-arrested or fail to appear in court while on release pending trial.
The answer to each question on the instrument provides a corresponding point score. At the end, the points
are added together and a final score is produced. This score is then usually compared to a decision scale
that may identify a defendant as low, medium or high risk. Another type of tool might use a yes/no scheme
– where a single answer “no” may produce a recommendation against non-financial pretrial release. This information/recommendation is then presented to the bail setter so that he or she can make the most informed
pretrial release or detention decision. Point-scales are the most popular kind of risk assessment instrument.
Several jurisdictions’ risk assessment instruments are posted at www.pretrial.org/PretrialServices/Essential-

Functions/Pages/ObjectiveRiskCriteria.aspx.

What does it mean to “validate” a risk assessment instrument?
Having a validated risk assessment instrument means that the tool the county uses has been shown,
through the objective collection and rigorous analysis of data, to have predictive value for the defendants
in your system. Many counties start their programs by borrowing a risk assessment instrument from another county. Comparing several counties’ tools reveals that they often contain different items. What’s
predictive in one county is not always found to be predictive in another. The key is to collect information on your own defendants and then, through sophisticated statistical methods that factor in the influence of other items considered in the risk assessment, analyze how often you are correctly predicting risk
of rearrest or flight.

Why does my county need one?
There are four reasons to have a validated risk assessment instrument. The first reason is to ensure objectivity. Research has shown that release/detain recommendations informed by a neutral and objective
assessment of the risk the person poses provide for more objectivity than when those recommendations
are based on professional judgment alone. Often counties use validated risk assessments to reduce racial
disparity or other types of bias about an individual. A second reason is for uniformity. Research has
shown that having a risk assessment instrument increases the equality of the bail decision-reducing disparity from one courtroom to another. A third reason is to document a set of locally valid predictive factors that judges, defenders, prosecutors and pretrial professionals can understand, thus improving system
collaboration. While the nature of the criminal justice system is adversarial to ensure protections of the
individual, system-wide policies must be collaborative in order to ensure that they are working toward the
goals of public safety and cost effectiveness, not conflicting with them. A final reason is that utilizing a pretrial
risk assessment instrument provides transparency, a window into how recommendations are being made.

How do I get one or validate the one I already use?
There are a number of ways to devise a new risk assessment instrument or validate one you have been
using. The key to either of these is data. If you neither use a tool now nor know what data to collect, the
Resources section at the end of this document can point you in the right direction. Often, counties borrow an instrument from a similar county (demographics, crime statistics, etc.) and start collecting necessary data in an automated system in order to validate the instrument or create a new one.
Graduate programs at local universities can be a great resource to counties. Locate a university with programs in statistics or social science (criminal justice, sociology). Contact the chair of that department to
discuss a possible project for a student who needs a Master’s thesis or dissertation topic. Creating a validated risk scheme for your county is a terrific project for a graduate student. There are also a number of
commercial and nonprofit consultants who provide this service, along with other critical jail population
and pretrial services assessment services that can assist you.
Jail Population Management: Elected County Ofcials! Guide to Pretrial Services

19

Appendix D: Profile of an Ideal Pretrial Services
Program
Community Stakeholder Collaboration: The pretrial services program has a collaborative with regular
meetings. The pretrial services program provides regular (quarterly) public reports about aggregate performance outcomes.
Mission Statement: The pretrial services program has a concise, written mission statement. The mission
statement is more than the statutory language incorporating the program; it reflects the program’s aims
and purposes.
Operations Manual: The pretrial services program has a written, up-to-date “how to” manual that explains in detail the procedures that must be followed in performing each function of pretrial operations.
The manual explicitly details the procedures for the pretrial interview, records check and verification,
release assessment, supervision, and use of information systems.
Information System: The pretrial services program maintains a systematic automated case tracking and
information system for the following purposes: monitoring defendant pretrial performance, measuring
program performance/effectiveness, validating program practices, diagnosing problems, and testing the
impact of implemented or proposed changes. Two types of information are needed to accomplish these:
defendant-specific and aggregated numbers.
Training: The pretrial services program has a structured orientation and training program for new staff,
ongoing training for line staff, and management training for supervisory staff.
Population Targeting/Universal Screening: The pretrial services program interviews, prior to the initial
appearance before a judicial officer, everyone arrested or charged with an offense over which the court(s)
that it serves has jurisdiction, with the following possible exceptions:
Those arrested solely on a probation or parole violation;
Those arrested for charges that are statutorily excluded from consideration by the pretrial services program;
If the defendant is released by other means before the initial court appearance; and,
System factors preclude interviews of certain defendants, such as imminent release by virtue of disposition at the initial court appearance.
Pretrial Interview: The interview elicits information concerning the defendant’s community ties, criminal history, and mental health or substance abuse problems.
Records Check: Both in and out of county, including out of state, criminal records are checked, including arrests and dispositions. Also checked are the defendant’s present criminal justice status (e.g.,
whether or not the arrestee has a pending charge or hold) and history of failure to appear.
Verification: Verification consists of confirming the information provided by the defendant by contacting references, and when discrepancies arise, re-interviewing defendants. Programs attempt to verify as
much information as possible prior to the initial appearance. If the defendant is not released because of
unverified information, the program continues verification efforts until as much, if not all, of the pertinent information is verified. The court is immediately notified when such verification occurs.
Risk Assessment: The pretrial services program uses a locally validated risk assessment instrument that
in a consistent and equitable fashion effectively assesses the defendant’s likelihood of failing to appear
at future court hearings or of posing a risk to community safety, if statutorily prescribed. The assessment

20

National Association of Counties

tool was developed as a result of independently conducted research and reevaluated at least every three
years.
Procedures exist to ensure that program staff in fact use the assessment instrument and use it consistently. A supervisor checks every report before it is presented to the court.
Recommendations: Based on an assessment of the defendant, the pretrial services program makes a
recommendation to the court as to an appropriate release/detention decision. A range of options is available, such as release on recognizance, restrictive non-financial conditions, and as the last resort financial
conditions (financial conditions are only imposed to assure appearance). Conditions are recommended
on a graduated basis from least to most restrictive. Where applicable (i.e., in states with preventive detention legislation), recommendations indicate if preventive detention is appropriate.
Submission of Report to Court: The pretrial services program submits a written and/or oral report to
the court and sends to the defense counsel and prosecutor in advance of the hearing. Pretrial staff are
either present in court or are readily available to the court. Recommendations are made based on an appropriate set of supervision conditions, not based on the expected outcome by the bench. Records are
kept as to the rate of acceptance of recommendations made to the court.
Supervision and Monitoring: Supervision includes contact supervision and referral or provision of services. Supervision plans are individualized and based on a scheme of graduated contacts and level of supervision dependent on pretrial performance. Compliance of defendants in supervision is monitored and
recorded in the automated information system. A final report on the defendant’s compliance with release
conditions is prepared to assist in the compilation of pre-sentence report information. The effectiveness
and reliability of community-based treatment and referral services used by the program is monitored
regularly by the program and reported to the court on a quarterly basis.
Court Date Notification System: The pretrial services program carries out or supplements court date
reminders to all defendants under their supervision. The reminder specifies the date, location, and time
of appearance at least 24 hours before each subsequent court appearance. When no court date is issued
at the time of the court appearance, the program provides written notification of the telephone number
and name of a person to call who will provide such information (i.e., the date, time, and exact location
of the court appearance).
Location and Return of Defendants Who Fail to Appear: The pretrial services program has procedures
for attempting to locate and return defendants to court to preclude the issuance of a bench warrant as
well as procedures for resolving the warrant once issued.
Review of Pretrial Custody Population: The pretrial services program reviews the pretrial detainee
population at least weekly to determine if factors associated with the initial detention decision still apply
and reports findings to the court.

Jail Population Management: Elected County Ofcials! Guide to Pretrial Services

21

Appendix E: Coordinating County Services
During Pretrial Supervision
Pretrial services programs can serve a valuable function as a gatekeeper to other countywide services. According to many studies, rates of both mental health and substance abuse disorders are significantly higher in
criminal justice populations than in the general population. Often unstable housing and underemployment
accompany these issues.
A county’s pretrial services program, through screening and assessment, can help identify needs and check
if the defendant is already participating in a treatment program. Substance abuse, mental health issues, and
other criminogenic factors can increase the risk of nonappearance and rearrest pending trial. Coordination
of services during the pretrial stage can improve outcomes for the defendant, both in the short term (making
court dates) and long term (ensuring continuity of care may shorten involvement with the criminal justice
system). Elected county officials should emphasize coordination of countywide services during the pretrial
stage. Cost efficiencies can be realized when duplication of services are reduced.

Example: Cuyahoga County (Ohio)
Mental Health Court Initiative
Development of the Mental Health Court Docket
became a critical collaborative initiative between
the criminal justice and the mental health treatment
systems. In 2002, the Court of Common Pleas along
with Suburban Court partners developed the Mental
Health Court Docket model for presentation and
ultimate acceptance at the Eighth District Judicial
Conference. The focus of this collaboration is to
identify existing programs and services that serve
these populations; to identify the gaps in services,
and expand resources; to enhance communication
and training which ultimately provides an efficient,
effective and consistent criminal response. The
objectives of the collaboration are early identification
and linkages to treatment services for offenders
with mental illness or those offenders that are
developmentally disabled. Services include screening,
assessment and sentencing responses, assertive
community treatment, and crisis intervention
teams.

22

2. A defendant is deemed to be eligible if there is a
clinical diagnosis that the defendant meets current
Developmentally Disabled Offender eligibility of an
IQ of 75 or less and/or an adaptive skills deficit.
Program Highlights:
Z Mental
Health
Liaisons
provide
recommendations to assist the Suburban Courts
and Police Departments with the mentally ill
and developmentally disabled offender.
Z Mental Health Liaisons visit the jails
within 24 hours to provide evaluations and
recommendations to the Police and Courts.
Z Access to the jails psychiatric ward and
NorthCoast Behavioral Healthcare for
stabilization.
Z Attorney consistency; an attorney appointed
to defend the offender in the suburban courts is
the same attorney who represents the offender
at the Common Pleas felony level.

To be eligible for the Mental Health Court Docket,
clients must meet the following criteria per the
diagnosis of a mental health professional.

Z The County Prosecutor and Public Defenders
office have a designated point person for the
Mental Health Court Docket.

1. A defendant is deemed to have a confirmed serious
mental illness if within the previous six months,
prior to arraignment, there is a clinical diagnosis of
severe mental illness with a psychotic feature. This
includes schizophrenia, schizoaffective, and other
psychotic disorders. Clients diagnosed as having a
mental disorder other than psychosis are ineligible
for the clinical components but may be eligible and
supervised by the probation component.

Z Specialized training for all individuals who
interact with the offender; Judges, Attorneys,
Police Officers, Probation Officers, etc.

National Association of Counties

Z Improved and enhanced communication with
the County Mental Health Board, Associated
Boards and linkages to appropriate resources.
Z Specialized judicial practices to address the
mentally ill offender.

Appendix F: Talking Points/Action Steps
What is the problem?

Why does this matter to me?

Z

Since 1982, the direct expenditure on
criminal justice by local governments has
grown from almost $21 billion to over $109
billion in 2006.1

Z

As the stewards of local resources, county
officials can ensure they are wisely used and
that their constituencies are protected from
both victimization and wasteful spending.

Z

There has been a significant rise in jail
populations since 1990, in spite of a
significant decrease in the reported crime
rates during the same period.

Z

If there are sub-populations within the jail
who could be targeted for either release
before admission or reducing their length of
stay, they should be identified.

Z

Jails primarily house pretrial defendants.
According to national estimates, two-thirds
of jail inmates are in a pretrial status.

Z

Z

Overall, data show that of all the unconvicted inmates in jail on any given day,
most are non-violent: almost 35% have been
charged with violent offenses, but 22% with
property offenses, 23% with drug charges,
and 20% with public-order charges.2

It would be beneficial for me to explore
implementing a pretrial services program.
(Or). It’s time to ensure I am managing well
the pretrial services program I have.

Z

Pretrial release programs are more costeffective than jail for those who can be
safely supervised in the community.

Z

A study in North Carolina in 2007 showed
the program saving the county over $1
million in jail bed days during a three-month
period.

Z

Data show that financial bail is now set in
two-thirds of felony cases nationwide, up
from only half in 1990.3

Z

As courts have imposed financial bonds,
the net result has been an increase in jail
populations. This is because only half of
felony defendants released through financial
conditions were able to meet that bond.
The result is use of expensive jail space.

What is a pretrial services
program?
Z

Pretrial services programs play an important
role in helping judges make more informed
bail decisions by providing comprehensive
information on each defendant.

One effective strategy many counties use to
reduce jail populations while maintaining
community safety is by having a highfunctioning pretrial services program.

Z

Once judges reach their pretrial release
decision, pretrial services programs supervise
the defendant in the community and
notify the courts of any violation of release
conditions.

1 Bureau of Justice Statistics’ Justice Expenditure
and Employment Extracts series.
2 Bureau of Justice Statistics. Special Report: Profile of Jail Inmates, 2002. July 2004, US Department
of Justice.
3 Bureau of Justice Statistics. Pretrial Release of
Felony Defendants in State Courts, SCPS 1990-2004.
January 2008 revision, US Department of Justice.

Z

The number of counties utilizing multicounty programs doubled from 2001 to
2009.4 Most pretrial services programs serve
jurisdictions with populations of 500,000 or
less.

Z

4 Pretrial Justice Institute. 2009 Survey of Pretrial
Services Programs. Washington, DC

Jail Population Management: Elected County Ofcials! Guide to Pretrial Services

23

Action Steps
Z

Z

Z

24

Start or reinvigorate a jail population
management collaborative, where all
criminal justice system stakeholders
(including others such as victim advocates,
community health and treatment providers)
are involved and consensus is achieved.

Z

Third, conduct the necessary administrative
tasks:
X

Determine the most efficient and effective
location for the program (under the
sheriff, at the jail, in probation, under
court services, etc.)

X

Determine the budget and staffing needs
based on the policies and procedures
outlined via the collaborative.

First, understand the current release and
detention decision-making process, in
addition to collecting data. Who has the
authority to do what? Map out the flow of
decisions and steps in the front-end of the
system.
Second, through the collaborative, establish
a vision, the goals, and objectives of the
pretrial services program. Ensure that these
are reached through consensus, and that
all stakeholders have a chance to express
their concerns and come to peace with the
decisions made by the group.

National Association of Counties

•

Ensure resources are provided for
monitoring and reporting out on
program performance measures

X

Hire a director and staff, provide
them with training (there are pretrial
services trainings provided by national
organizations and the federal government,
as well as within your state depending
upon where you are).

X

Collect and analyze data.

25 Massachusetts Avenue, NW l Suite 500 l Washington, DC 20001 l 202.393.6226 l fax 202.393.2630 l www.naco.org

 

 

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