Impact of Pretrial Detention


The studies conducted by the Arnold Foundation have shown that pretrial detention has a direct influence on the outcome of the trial (Pretrial Criminal Justice Research, 2013, p. 3). It was demonstrated that pretrial detention is related to the probability of a jail or prison sentence, as well as to the length of the sentence. Two studies were carried out, collecting the data from the federal and state courts.

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In the state courts, the likelihood of a jail sentence increased over four times with detention prior to the trial, and over three times in the case of a prison sentence. The length of the incarceration increased as well: nearly three times for the jail sentence, and over two times for the prison sentence.

Based on the statistical data collected from the federal courts, the following correlations were made. The release of the defendants prior to the trial was associated with shorter sentences. This correlation proved valid even in the case of the defendants, who refused to comply with the release conditions, thereby voiding their release. Nonetheless, the defendants, who were detained without release, received significantly lengthier sentences than the abovementioned categories. The authors of the Arnold Foundation Report claim that the number of sentences has increased ten times since 1980, which is a substantial burden on the tax system (Pretrial Criminal Justice Research, 2013, p. 4).

However, other studies provide slightly different results. Sacks and Ackerman (2014) claim that pretrial detention has a considerable influence on the length of the sentence, whereas the likelihood of incarceration remains unaffected by the pretrial motions (p. 1). Nevertheless, Lee (2014) claims that the probability of conviction is much higher in the case of the defendants who were not released before the trial (p. 1).

Unknown Costs of Pretrial Detention

The authors of the LJAF report question the efficaciousness of the criminal justice system, as well as its commitment to the primary purpose of the system protection of society through crime prevention and crime rate reduction. The second phase of the study is devoted to the purpose of establishing whether the existing system actually contributes to reduction of the crime rates.

In the course of the study, the cases of the low-risk defendants were subject to analysis. It was demonstrated that the probability of commission of new crimes by the in detention prior to the trial was much higher than the low-risk defendants who were released. The results applied not only to the duration of the trial but also to the period of several years after its conclusion. Statistics for no correlation between the pretrial detention and higher crime rate (Pretrial Criminal Justice Research, 2013, p. 4). Therefore, in order to ensure public safety, pretrial detention should be employed in the case of the high-risk defendants.

The authors of the report emphasize that the lack of proper risk assessment system is the cause of the problem. are critical for identifying the low-, moderate-, and high-risk defendants. Studies are conducted to develop the assessment tools for the purposes of distinguishing between three levels of risk in defendants. According to Fazel, Singh, Doll, and Grann (2012), risk-assessment instruments, which were studied, were promising concerning the identification of the low-risk defendants (p. 46). However, distinguishing between moderate- and further research.

The detention time was explored as well. Based on the data analysis, a correlation was established between a longer time spent in detention and a significantly worse pretrial crime rate.

The probability of committing new crimes by the low-risk defendants was increased by 40 percent after three to four days spent in detention (Pretrial Criminal Justice Research, 2013, p. 4). The crime rate of low-risk defendants, who spent more than 30 days in pretrial detention, was substantially higher than the low-risk defendants, who were detained for less than a day. Moreover, increased detention time correlated with an increased crime rate of the low-risk defendant over the two-year period upon the conclusion of the trial (Pretrial Criminal Justice Research, 2013, p. 5). The study conducted by Oleson, Lowenkamp, Wooldredge, VanNostrand, and Cadigan confirmed the correlation between pretrial detention and the probability of a prison sentence (2014, p. 22).

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