Californians for Safety and Justice Hosts Conversation on Pretrial Justice and State Policy

07/28/2014 01:13 PM

On July 21st, the Santa Clara County Office of Pretrial Services hosted a pretrial visit and discussion convened by Californians for Safety and Justice. Staff from the California State Assembly and the Legislative Analyst’s Office participated in a presentation on best practices in pretrial, including practical examples from Santa Clara, where 1400 defendants participate in pretrial release programs on any given day. The county screens defendants for release eligibility 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and provides risk assessment information to judges making release decisions. With success rates hovering at 90%, Santa Clara is saving millions in jail costs while maintaining community safety.

The bottom line: research shows that risk-based pretrial release and supervision is the most effective approach for keeping the community safe and getting defendants back to court. Several counties, including Santa Clara, have incorporated risk assessment and supervision into pretrial decision making so that lower risk offenders can remain in the community, and higher risk offenders stay in jail.

Current California statute conflicts with pretrial research and national standards. By requiring that counties use a charge-based bond schedule, money often drives release decisions rather than risk to public safety. However, Realignment is causing counties to rethink local justice decisions and reconsider who is incarcerated in local jails. It is an opportune time to revisit state policy—how can the legislature ensure that jails hold the most dangerous criminals, and that a constitutional presumption of release is protected for everyone else?

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