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Why Sheriffs Should Champion Pretrial Services
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By Gary Raney, Sheriff, Ada County, Idaho; Stan Hilkey, Sheriff, Mesa County, Colorado; and Beth Arthur, Sheriff, Arlington County, Virginia

Posted with the permission of the National Sheriffs’ Association. This article was originally published in the May/June 2014 issue of Sheriff, the magazine of the National Sheriffs’ Association.

About 60% of U.S. jail beds are occupied by pretrial defendants. The two purposes of jailing pretrial defendants are: 1) to ensure they appear in court, and 2) to protect the public. But what if those goals can be reached in a more cost-effective manner?

The authors suggest an analogy between using jail beds more carefully and using outpatient medical care instead of hospitalization. In fact, the American public and a broad spectrum of professional associations support the use of pretrial services. The National Sheriffs' Association passed a resolution in 2012 that “supports and recognizes the value of high-functioning pretrial services agencies to enhance public safety; promote a fair and efficient justice system; provide assistance to sheriffs in the administering of a safe jail and reducing jail crowding; and help relieve the financial burden on taxpayers.”

Best practices in pretrial services include actuarially based risk assessment, active supervision to ensure that the conditions of pretrial release are being met, and delivery of court date reminders—like the appointment reminders sent by dentists’ offices.

This article includes several questions local leaders can ask to learn whether pretrial services (if they exist) are functioning as well as they could be. The same questions can help local government officials explore the benefits of pretrial services and how their agencies could move toward using pretrial risk assessments and creating safe and less costly alternatives to jail.




Posted Wed, Aug 27 2014 12:32 PM by Elizabeth

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