“Pretrial Justices is honoring the presumption of innocence, the right to bail that is not excessive, and all other legal and constitutional rights afforded to accused persons awaiting trial while balancing these individuals rights with the need to protect the community, maintain the integrity of the judicial process, and assure court appearance” Pretrial Justice Institute (PJI)
The role of pretrial services is a unique function within the criminal justice system. The role of a pretrial officer is to assist in reducing unnecessary pretrial detention of defendants pending trial while also taking steps to assure Public Safety. In Dane County, Pretrial Services Officers are Social Workers and work for the county under the umbrella of the Dane County Clerk of Court. Upon a referral, a Social Worker will be assigned to the defendant’s case, who assists the court in monitoring conditions of bond while their criminal cases(s) are pending. Supervision will include reporting to the office in person/and or by phone, and can include Drug Testing, GPS (Global Positioning System), and/or alcohol monitoring if ordered by the judiciary.
To provide pretrial services to defendants in the Dane County Criminal Courts. As Agents of the Court, we strive to increase public protection through the supervision of bail conditions, provide referrals to community resources and support, and offer opportunities for positive change, no matter the outcome of their case. As Social Workers, we are committed to providing quality services in a respectful manner to our diverse client population with the goals of minimizing unnecessary pretrial detention, reducing missed court appearances, and preventing new arrests while on bond.
Every day in America, Judges have to answer a critical question: What are the chances that a recently arrested defendant if released before trial, will commit a new crime, a new violent crime, or fail to appear for Court.
In Dane County we are using a Risk Assessment tool that examines 9 factors which generate three, Six Point scales which focus on:
New Criminal Activity
Failure to Appear
New Violent Criminal Activity
The tool is not meant to replace the independent discretion of the commissioner or Judge. It is just one part of the equation. Judges will still look to facts of a case and the risk a defendant poses, while also making decisions based on judgment and experience.
The Public Safety Assessment tool reliably predicts the risk that a defendant will reoffend, Commit Violent acts, or Fail to Come Back to Court.
The 9 factors are:
The PSA is done without consideration for Race, Ethnicity, or Geography.
The assessment is completed without an interview of the defendant. We are able to gather data on defendant’s based on Jail Booking Data; Automated Criminal Records (National Crime Information Center). Wisconsin Criminal History, and Circuit Court records
As part of our process in Dane County, we participated in a study with the Access to Justice Lab at Harvard University Law School to examine the impact of the PSA on Decision Making by the Court and the District Attorney’s Office. The study completed in 2019, and starting on January 3, 2020, PSA’s will be provided to judiciary on all criminal cases, if one was prepared by the PSA staff.