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Practice Profile

Pretrial Interventions for Ensuring Appearance in Court

Evidence Ratings for Outcomes:

Promising - One Meta-Analysis Justice Systems or Processes - Failure-to-Appear
No Effects - One Meta-Analysis Crime & Delinquency - Multiple crime/offense types

Practice Description

Practice Goals
Pretrial release refers to a process in which adult defendants are released to the community, rather than detained in jail, prior to the disposition of their cases. To ensure that defendants who are released before disposition show up to scheduled court dates, jurisdictions have used the following three interventions: 1) court-date reminder notifications; 2) bonds as a condition of release; and 3) pretrial supervision, during which defendants are released and supervised in a non-institutional setting. The goals are to ensure that individuals attend their scheduled court appearances and to maintain public safety.
Practice Components
Judges determine whether an individual will be released during pretrial, usually based on the assessment of an individual’s likelihood of appearing in court and other considerations of public safety.  Each of the three interventions has unique components.
Court-Date Reminder Notifications. Court-date reminder notifications may come in the form of postcards or letters, telephone calls (made by officers or through an automated system), and text messages. In addition to variations in the form of the notification, the content of the notification can also vary. For example, some notifications may only provide the court date, time, and location. Other notifications may explain the consequences of failing to appear in court such as a bench warrant being issued (Bechtel et al. 2017).
Bonds. Different types of release by bonds are available to individuals. One type is surety bond, or commercial bond, where money is lent to individuals on release by a bond dealer, usually for a fee. If the individual does not appear in court, the bonding company is liable for the full amount of bail. Another type is called deposit bond, where individuals post a small fraction of the bail amount (such as 10 percent) to the court.
If the individuals fail to appear in court, they lose the deposit and are held liable for the full value of the bond. Individuals may also be released on unsecured bonds, which does not require a deposit to be released; however, they will be liable for the full amount if they do not appear in court (Helland and Tabarrok 2004).
If individuals do appear in court, they typically receive back any bond or deposit already paid to the court. Using bonds as a condition of release is based on the idea that bonds serve as a deterrent for failing to appear at court because individuals will strive to avoid bond forfeiture or the threat of pursuit from a bonding company (Betchel et al. 2017).
Pretrial Supervision. The decision to release defendants to pretrial supervision is often based on the determination of a defendant’s level of risk (of not appearing in court and/or reoffending before the court date). Some jurisdictions will use certain factors to determine a defendant’s risk classification, such as the seriousness of the current offense or the likelihood of flight or rearrest (Goldkamp and White 2006). Other jurisdictions may use validated risk assessments, such as the Risk Prediction Index, to classify a defendant’s risk level (Robinson et al. 2012).
Defendants may be released to the custody of a pretrial supervision or services department (if one exists in the jurisdiction), or to other agencies, such as probation or parole offices, that are responsible for post-conviction supervision.
Pretrial supervision practices vary widely by jurisdictions. Pretrial supervision could include location monitoring; electronic monitoring; halfway house placement; substance abuse testing; or participation in treatment programs for alcohol/drug or mental health issues, or for sex offenses (VanNostrand and Keebler 2009). Pretrial supervision programs also vary in their requirements and protocols, such as standards for graduation, noncompliance, and termination (Hahn et al. 2016).

Meta-Analysis Outcomes

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Promising - One Meta-Analysis Justice Systems or Processes - Failure-to-Appear
When looking at the studies on the different types of pretrial interventions (court notifications, different types of bonds, and pretrial supervision), Bechtel and colleagues (2017) found the effect sizes for all three interventions were small, but statistically significant. For court notification interventions, the effect size was -0.07 (based on results from four studies). The effect size for different types of bonds was -0.06 (based on results from eight studies). Finally, the effect size for pretrial supervision interventions (which could include location monitoring; electronic monitoring; halfway house placement; substance abuse testing or participation in treatment programs) was -0.16 (based on the results from three studies). Overall, this means that the pretrial interventions resulted in a small significant reduction in failure-to-appear rates of participants compared to non-participants.
No Effects - One Meta-Analysis Crime & Delinquency - Multiple crime/offense types
When looking at the studies on the different types of pretrial interventions (court notifications, different types of bonds, and pretrial supervision), overall Bechtel and colleagues (2017) found no significant impact on arrest rates.
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Meta-Analysis Methodology

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Meta-Analysis Snapshot
 Literature Coverage DatesNumber of StudiesNumber of Study Participants
Meta-Analysis 11976 - 2014140

Meta-Analysis 1
Bechtel and colleagues (2017) conducted a meta-analysis to examine what is known about the effectiveness of pretrial interventions, including court notifications, bonds, and pretrial supervision. A search was conducted on the Pretrial Justice Institutes website, along with searches of literature, using terms such as “pretrial”, “bond” and “defendant”, “bail”, or “pretrial risk assessment”. The authors identified over 800 manuscripts and included studies that met the following criteria: 1) the manuscript had to use data from a jurisdiction in the United States; 2) the publication year had to be 1970 or later; 3) the manuscript had to report on at least one of the following outcomes: failure to appear during pretrial release, arrest for new criminal behavior during pretrial release, bond revocation during pretrial release, or a combination of these outcomes; and 4) the manuscript had to compare at least two groups. 
A total of 16 studies were included in the review of pretrial interventions, including two studies that specifically looked at court notifications, nine studies that specifically looked at bond types, and three studies that specifically looked at pretrial supervision (Note: Although one study looked at drug/alcohol testing, and one study looked at multiple types of pretrial interventions, these program types were not included in the review). The total number of defendants included in the 16 studies was 385,097 (however, the total number of defendants from the studies only on court notifications, bond types, and pretrial supervision was not provided). In all the studies, those defendants with enhanced conditions were considered the treatment group and those defendants experiencing typical conditions or conditions that involved lesser constraints were considered as the comparison group (for example, defendants who were required to post secured bond were considered the treatment group, while those defendants who were not required to post a second bond were considered the comparison group). Most of the studies did not report characteristics of the samples, including age, gender, and race. Four studies reported age of the study participants; the average age was 32.6 years. Four studies reported gender of the participants; 81.0 percent were male. Five studies reported information on race; the samples were mixed in terms of race of the defendants. Eleven studies reported charge severity of the study sample: one study included only misdemeanor charges, three studies included only felony charges, and seven studies included misdemeanor and felony charges. The two studies on court notifications were conducted in Multnomah County, Oregon, and in Nebraska. 
For each study, one effect size for each potential outcome was calculated, using the largest sample size that was associated with the most rigorous test (i.e., matched sample versus unmatched sample) and the longest follow-up period. For all studies, weights and effect sizes (which were odds ratios and r values) were calculated using standard procedures. A methodological scale was used to control for study quality in multivariate analyses predicting effect sizes.
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There is no cost information available for this practice.
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Evidence-Base (Meta-Analyses Reviewed)

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These sources were used in the development of the practice profile:

Meta-Analysis 1
Bechtel, Kristen, Alexander M. Holsinger, Christopher T. Lowenkamp, and Madeline J. Warren. 2017. “A Meta-Analytic Review of Pretrial Research: Risk Assessment, Bond Type, and Interventions.” American Journal of Criminal Justice 42:443–67.
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Additional References

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These sources were used in the development of the practice profile:

Goldkamp, John S., and Michael D. White. 2006. “Restoring Accountability in Pretrial Release: The Philadelphia Pretrial Release Supervision Experiments.” Journal of Experimental Criminology 21:143–81.

Hahn, Josephine W., 2016. An Experiment in Bail Reform: Examining the Impact of the Brooklyn Supervised Release Program. New York, N.Y.: Center for Court Innovation.

Helland, Eric, and Alexander Tabarrok. 2004. “The Fugitive: Evidence on Public versus Private Law Enforcement From Bail Jumping.” Journal of Law and Economics 47:93–122.

Robinson, Charles R., Christopher T. Lowenkamp, Alexander M. Holsinger, Scott VanBenschoten, Melissa Alexander, and J.C. Oleson. 2012. “A Random Study of Staff Training Aimed at Reducing Re-arrest (STARR): Using Core Correctional Practices in Probation Interactions.” Journal of Crime and Justice 35:167–88.

VanNostrand, Marie, and Gena Keebler. 2009. Pretrial Risk Assessment in the Federal Court. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Justice, Office of the Federal Detention Trustee.
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Related Programs

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Following are programs that are related to this practice:

Strategic Training Initiative in Community Supervision (STICS) Promising - One study
A job training program for probation officers to help them apply the risk-need-responsivity model with probationers to reduce recidivism. The program is rated Promising. The results of the study revealed significant changes in the officer population; but non-significant differences regarding offenders’ subsequent recidivism.

Staff Training Aimed at Reducing Rearrest (STARR) Promising - One study
A training program for federal community supervision officers providing direct service to offenders under supervision. The goal is to improve one-on-one officer-client interactions to reduce risk and recidivism. The program is rated Promising. Trained officers were twice as likely to capitalize on opportunities to use behavioral strategies that could help shape client behavior. Discussions about cognitions, peers or impulsivity were more likely to occur among officers in the experimental group.

Court Date Reminder Notices (Nebraska) Promising - One study
To reduce failure-to-appear rates, postcard reminders were sent to misdemeanor defendants to remind them of their scheduled court dates. The program is rated Promising. There were significant differences in failure-to-appear rates between the experimental groups that received any type of postcard reminder and the control group that received no reminder.
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Practice Snapshot

Age: 18+

Gender: Both

Settings: Courts, Other Community Setting

Practice Type: Alternatives to Detention, Court Processing, Reminders/Notifications, Specific deterrence

Unit of Analysis: Persons