Providing nonpartisan policy analysis, consulting, and
research services to improve public safety throughout the nation.

Pretrial Justice

At CJI, we work with a diverse array of criminal justice leaders whose decisions have an impact on pretrial justice, including:

  • Sheriff’s Departments
  • District Attorney’s Offices
  • Public Defenders
  • Judges
  • Probation Departments
  • Pretrial Services Agencies
  • Public Health Agencies

By working with these stakeholders, CJI brings years of experience in helping agencies examine front-end criminal justice data, strategically examine promising practices in the pretrial field, and expertise in implementing chosen practices with fidelity.

We have worked with multiple jurisdictions to select, implement, and validate pretrial risk assessments, one of the most common pretrial strategies. Pretrial experts at CJI also have worked extensively in counties to bring stakeholders together on a regular basis; shared goals and understanding are vital because pretrial services affect so many diverse agencies in a jurisdiction.

The pretrial period, the time between arrest and case disposition, is an important part of the criminal justice system and one that has been getting more attention in recent years.  Currently, both the American Bar Association (ABA) and the National Association of Pretrial Service Agencies (NAPSA) have released standards of pretrial services which contain promising practices being implemented in jurisdictions across the nation. Studies have shown that defendants not released during the pretrial period are more likely to be convicted and more likely to have a longer sentence than defendants that were released pretrial. Additionally, pretrial detention is often an inefficient use of public resources, especially for lower risk defendants who can be safely released or supervised in the community.

Examples of work in CJI’s pretrial portfolio include:

Tennessee Pretrial Justice Technical Assistance

CJI recently began the site selection process for a pretrial technical assistance grant with the state of Tennessee. Two counties will be chosen from applicants to act as pilot sites where stakeholders will work with CJI to select a risk assessment tool and develop processes for risk-based pretrial release decisions. We will also work with the counties to identify major drivers to the local jail population and work with policy teams to highlight opportunities to reduce the use of detention without compromising public safety. We will work with Tennessee over four years through all stages of implementation. Work will include:

  • Convening local stakeholder groups to explore pretrial features and needs;
  • Assisting the counties in assembling and putting in place the tools and resources necessary for implementation;
  • Planning the rollout of the risk assessment tool and data collection systems;
  • Helping to implementing policies and procedures for the tool’s administration and use such as a fidelity monitoring process, inter-rater agreement for quality assurance, and coaching;
  • Implementing promising pretrial strategies such as pretrial supervision; and
  • Validating the chosen tool to create a locally validated pretrial risk assessment instrument.

Pretrial Assistance to California Counties

CJI has recently completed work with two counties in California after providing them with pretrial-focused technical assistance. Humboldt County, had recently resurrected pretrial services as a division of their Probation Department to ease jail crowding and contracted with CJI because their supervised release program was being underutilized. Riverside County had recently transferred their pretrial services from the Courts to the Probation Department and was interested in increasing their pretrial release rate by adding a supervision component and becoming a more evidence-based program through the implementation of a pretrial risk assessment. We have assisted these counties with:

  • Stakeholder engagement and collaboration;
  • Choosing, implementing, and validating a pretrial risk assessment tool ;
  • Enhancing pretrial data collection;
  • Collecting and analyzing pretrial, jail, and court data;
  • Reporting monthly and quarterly on pretrial assessment, judicial decision-making, and pretrial supervision success and failure;
  • Assisting with quality assurance processes; and,
  • Providing guidance and expertise in implementing pretrial supervision.

Pretrial Drivers in South Dakota

CJI has recently finished work in two counties in South Dakota who had asked for assistance in determining drivers of their jail population and the feasibility of various pretrial options. We worked with the Sheriff’s Department in each county to extract and then analyze data on the jail population, focusing on the pretrial population. Concurrently, we conducted pretrial system assessments which included extensive documentation and policy review and on-site stakeholder interviews to determine current pretrial practices and explore potential future pretrial opportunities. Finally, we presented a series of actionable recommendations based on the data analysis and system assessment to each county to reduce the growing jail population and increase pretrial release options.

Other Project Highlights

Delaware: In August 2015, CJI began work with the state to validate a pretrial risk assessment instrument that was created as part of the state’s Justice Reinvestment Initiative.
Contra Costa County: CJI is validating the county’s pretrial risk assessment tool and has created an interim case management database for pretrial services to collect data on assessments and pretrial supervision.