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Pretrial justice initiatives are an essential aspect of the international criminal law. While the necessity of developing pretrial justice may be a point of disagreement in certain cases, studies conducted by the Arnold Foundation (LJAF) yielded interesting results. It was demonstrated that pretrial motions have a significant impact on the outcome of the trial, including the sentence length, as well as on the rate of criminal activity before and after the conclusion of the trial.
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.
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 low-risk defendants held 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 high-risk defendants showed 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. Pretrial risk-assessment instruments 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 high-risk defendants requires 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).
Effect of Pretrial Supervision
The lack of efficient assessment tools for identifying the necessary type of pretrial supervision entails the need of further research on the matter. The LJAF study was based on data collected on supervised and unsupervised defendants. The results of the study demonstrated that the supervised moderate- risk defendants failed to appear before court less frequently than the moderate-risk defendants who were unsupervised. In the case of high-risk defendants, 33 percent was established and 38 percentage regarding the middle-risk defendants. However, the authors of the study emphasize that the data on low-risk defendants lacks consistency, thereby demonstrating that the correlation between the supervision and the missed court date is not established with certainty.
Moreover, over six months of pretrial supervision showed the decreased probability of commission of new crimes prior to the trial by 22 percent (“Pretrial Criminal Justice Research,” 2013, p. 6). However, the authors note that the collected data is not sufficiently conclusive concerning the model of supervision. The only consistent information this phase of study provided was that the supervision before the trial had a definite influence on crime reduction and resulted in a lower probability of a missed court date.
Wiseman (2013) suggests the introduction of an electronic monitoring system (p. 1404) as a valid alternative to detention measures. It would increase cost-effectiveness and overall efficiency of pretrial supervision. According to Wiseman (2013), certain studies of recidivism rates demonstrate the decreased failure statistics by 30 percent in comparison with other methods of supervision (p. 1403). The author acknowledges the potential objection to the monitoring system, i. e. the issue of privacy. However, it is emphasized that the current conditions of pretrial detention do not ensure the defendants’ individual privacy (Wiseman, 2013, p. 1344).
The LJAF study aimed at exploring the connection between pretrial detention, court decision, and the crime rate reduction. The length of detention was established to be connected to the likelihood of committing new crimes by the middle- and low-risk defendants. Pretrial motions were revealed as an important factor in the court’s decision, affecting both the probability of receiving a sentence, as well as its length. It was determined that over six months of pretrial supervision can lead to a crime reduction before and after the conclusion of the trial. Due to the need of conducting more research in this area, the obtained correlations are characterized as observational, as opposed to causal. Nonetheless, the collected data provides a foundation for further research.
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Fazel, S., Singh, J. P., Doll, H., & Grann, M. (2012). Use of risk assessment instruments to predict violence and antisocial behaviour in 73 samples involving 24 827 people: systematic review and meta-analysis. British Medical Journal, 345(1), 46-92.
Lee, J. (2014). To detain or not to detain? Using propensity scores to examine the relationship between pretrial detention and conviction (Doctoral thesis, University of Maryland, College Park, MD). Web.
Oleson, J. C., Lowenkamp, C. T., Wooldredge, J., VanNostrand, M., & Cadigan, T. P. (2014). The sentencing consequences of federal pretrial supervision. Crime & Delinquency, 21(1), 22-57. Web.
Pretrial Criminal Justice Research. (2013). Web.
Sacks, M., & Ackerman, A. R. (2014). Bail and sentencing. Does pretrial detention lead to harsher punishment?. Criminal Justice Policy Review, 25(1), 59-77.
Wiseman, S. R. (2013). Pretrial detention and the right to be monitored. The Yale Law Journal, 636(123), 1344-1404.