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Exploring Alternatives to Cash Bail: An Evaluation of Orange County’s Pretrial Assessment and Release Supervision (PARS) Program

Abstract

This evaluation examines the impact of a pretrial risk assessment and supervised release program on pretrial release rates, judicial bail determinations, and failure to appear (FTA) rates among non-violent felony defendants in Orange County, CA. The results indicate that program implementation was not associated with a significant increase in pretrial release rates. However, defendants who received supervised release under the program were significantly less likely to FTA than similarly situated defendants who were released on cash bail. The results therefore suggest that pending bail reform measures in California and elsewhere, which replace cash bail with risk assessment screening and non-monetary supervised release, can be implemented without sacrificing appearances in court.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Bail refers to “the process of releasing a defendant from jail or other governmental custody [prior to trial] with conditions set to reasonably assure public safety and court appearance” (Pretrial Justice Institute 2015, p.2). In the U.S., defendants must typically post a cash “bond” in order to meet bail requirements and obtain pretrial release (Pretrial Justice Institute 2015, p.2). The bond is returned only if the defendant appears for all scheduled court dates, thereby providing an incentive for the defendant to attend all required court appearances.

  2. 2.

    S.B. 10 excludes misdemeanor arrestees from automatic pretrial release if they are suspected of certain specified crimes, such as domestic violence offenses (Cal. Stat. 2018).

  3. 3.

    Statistics-based risk assessment instruments are instruments whose predictive validity has been established through statistical analysis techniques.

  4. 4.

    These are the only months in 2015 for which release data on all PARS-eligible defendants were available from the .OC. Superior Court.

  5. 5.

    This item asks whether an arrestee has been employed or served as a primary caregiver continuously for the 2 years prior to his or her arrest.

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Barno, M., Martínez, D.N. & Williams, K.R. Exploring Alternatives to Cash Bail: An Evaluation of Orange County’s Pretrial Assessment and Release Supervision (PARS) Program. Am J Crim Just 45, 363–378 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12103-019-09506-3

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Keywords

  • Pretrial
  • Bail
  • Supervised release
  • Program evaluation