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Pretrial Research and Safety

After someone is arrested, the judge or other judicial officer decides whether the defendant can be released until the trial or must be detained. Holding defendants until trial generates extra jail expenses and sequesters the defendants before they have been found guilty in court. The justice system, however, also needs to ensure that a released defendant will not endanger the public or run away before the trial. Safety is a particular concern in domestic violence cases; abusers released before trial might disregard no-contact orders and return to harm their victims.

A common requirement for release is bail. Under that requirement, release depends entirely on whether the defendant can raise the money for bail. Pretrial services programs acknowledge other kinds of insurance that would motivate a defender not to flee, such as a defendant's housing situation, employment, family and other community ties. Pretrial services programs supervise released defendants to ensure that they comply with the conditions of their release.

NIJ's pretrial research portfolio focuses on the research, development and evaluation of pretrial release and detention policies and practices.

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Date Created: September 3, 2013