Pretrial detainees account for more than 60 percent of the inmate population in our jails. The cost to incarcerate defendants pretrial has been estimated at over $9 billion per year.
Many pretrial detainees are low-risk defendants, who, if released before trial, are highly unlikely to commit other crimes and very likely to return to court. Others present moderate risks that can often be managed in the community through supervision, monitoring, or other interventions. There is, of course, a small but important group of defendants who should most often be detained because they pose significant risks of committing acts of violence, committing additional crimes, or skipping court.
According to The Crime Report, extended pretrial detention correlates longer sentences, increased criminal activity after cases are over, and a decreased likelihood that defendants will return to court, according to a series of studies released recently by the non-profit Laura and John Arnold Foundation.
One study of court data found that defendants held for the entire pretrial period were four times more likely to be sentenced to jail and three times more likely to be sentenced to prison; the jail sentences were three times longer and the prison sentences twice as long.
Another study — of 153,000 defendants in Kentucky — found a correlation between the length of pre-trial detention and the likelihood that defendants would re-offend.
The third study found that defendants who were released under pretrial supervision “were significantly more likely to appear for their day in court than those who were unsupervised.”
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