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Dane County Clerk of Courts

Pretrial Services

“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)

What is Pretrial Services?

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.   

Dane County Pretrial Services (DCPS) Mission

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.


  • Defendants in Pretrial Services have been charged with alleged crimes are pending trial, and are innocent of those charges while on bail. Defendants may have misdemeanor and/or felony charges pending.  Defendants have to be referred to the program by a judge or court commissioner. The court provides the defendant with Pretrial Services, as an alternative to cash bail, or in some cases as a condition of them posting cash bail while their case is pending.
  • If ordered into the program, defendants are required to report to the Pretrial Services office (215 S Hamilton Street Room 5052, Madison) (Map-English) (Map-Spanish) as directed by the court and will meet with their assigned social worker.     

Pretrial Services Eligibility and Release from Jail

  • Judiciary must order as a condition of their bond, that they be supervised by Dane County Pretrial Services (DCPS), and referral made to our office, with a time frame of when they need to report by.   DCPS does not pre screen defendants for eligibility in the jail.  Should a defendant be in custody and want to be considered for the program in lieu of cash bond, they should contact their attorney to request a bail hearing.  
  • Defendants who are homeless, can still be referred to DCPS, and that is the decision of the court.    
  •  Defendant may not have a probation/parole hold, detainer from another jurisdiction, or a commitment/sentence to serve.  Any of these holds prohibit the defendant’s release from custody.  If they are referred to the program with these in place, they would remain in custody until they are resolved and then would need to report as required by the order, once they are released.   
  •  Defendant must voluntarily agree to participate with all rules/requirements of Pretrial Services and defendant must comply with all other court orders and conditions of bail, and must sign a release of information that outlines that information shared with DCPS can be shared with the court, the District Attorneys’ Office and Defense counsel.  
  • There are no fees for DCPS supervision and or any fees for court ordered equipment, or drug testing.   
  • Defendants are required to report to DCPS by the time frame ordered by judiciary.  Should a defendant fail to report as required following their release from jail, a report would be written to the court which may result in a warrant for their arrest.  Maps are available at court, at the Public Safety Building, and on this website, to better access our office.  

Pretrial Services Minimum Supervision Requirements

  • Defendant will report to the Pretrial Services office at a frequency deemed appropriate by the social worker; which may be weekly. This is determined by PSA (see below) if one was used in court. If no PSA was used, the social worker will determine the frequency based on a number of factors. Defendants are not all required to report to the office with the same frequency.
  • When random UA’s are selected on the referral form, a defendant will be subject to providing random urinalyses (UA’s) to screen for controlled substances.  Also ordered, will also be a bond condition of “shall not possess or consume controlled substances or drug paraphernalia.”  How often and UA instructions will be discussed at the intake. Defendants are required to provide prescriptions for any medications they are taking if this is ordered. 
  • When a Remote Breath, a portable cellular alcohol monitoring unit is ordered by the court, Pretrial Services social workers will require the defendant be set up on one immediately at their intake.  Also ordered, will be a bond condition of “shall not possess or consume alcohol” or something similar.   A minimum of three tests daily are required, but the frequency could be more on a case to case situation.  Social worker try their best to work around defendants schedules.   
  • Defendant will be placed on GPS monitoring for geographical ordered conditions and curfew ordered monitoring only if ordered by the court.  GPS units are fitted for all defendant’s the same and are required to be secured to the bottom of their ankle.   
  • Defendant must follow all other bail conditions as ordered by the court.  Social Workers are not able to change bond conditions.


  • Defendants in the program must comply with all of their bail conditions, as well as supervision rules which are reviewed at their intake. If there is non-compliance that rises to a level of being deemed a violation, a report is written to the judiciary.  Defense counsel and the assigned District Attorney are also copied in on that report.   Once a report is written, this report is public record, and judiciary can respond in four ways: No change with a warning, a bail hearing can be scheduled, a body only warrant issued, or a warrant issued with cash bail that if posted, would require the defendant report back to DCPS.

What is a Public Safety Assessment (PSA)?

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:

  1. Age at Current arrest;
  2. Current Violent offenses; (Sub score for age under 20)
  3. Pending Charge at time of offense
  4. Prior Misdemeanors
  5. Prior felonies
  6. Prior crime of violence
  7. Prior FTA within the last 2 years
  8. Prior FTA MT 2 years ago
  9. Prior sentence of incarceration (14 days or more)

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.

Additional Resources

Pretrial Services Information
Map to Pretrial Services Office - English
Map to Pretrial Services Office - Spanish