Data tools credited for reducing pretrial crime

There is much debate on the topic of pretrial bail and on which defendants should be detained and which handcuffsdefendants should be released safely prior to trial. According to the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP), a suspect’s release pending trial is almost exclusively based on the charge and whether the suspect has enough money to bail himself or herself out of jail. The release decision is often not based on an informed assessment of whether he or she is a danger to society and/or is likely to return to court for trial.

“Research has shown that under our current system, half of the most dangerous or likely to flee arrestees/defendants are able to make a monetary bail amount and leave jail unsupervised,” claims IACP.

The IACP pretrial justice reform initiative was established in partnership with the Public Welfare Foundation and the Pretrial Justice Institute, with a goal of educating criminal justice leaders on how their local system can save and maximize their limited resources through pretrial reform.

“Reform” is also the buzzword around the implementation of the Public Safety Assessment – Court (PSA-Court) tool in Kentucky. This summer, the Laura and John Arnold Foundation released results from the first six months of PSA-Court. According to their website, IACP is “very pleased and supportive” of the Arnold Foundation’s findings.

Among other things, the PSA-Court report claimed that crime by defendants on pretrial release declined by 15% and the overall number of defendants on pretrial release increased by 70%.

At University of Louisville, the Department of Justice Administration closely follows the trends in public safety, including corrections policies and reforms implementation. Students in the justice administration degree programs (master’s and Ph.D. levels) often use their knowledge acquired in the classroom to create analytical models for scanning the corrections environment, assessing the contemporary issues and proposing solutions to local and state government officials.

“In our master’s program in justice administration, students work closely with local criminal justice agencies and assist these organizations in analyses that result in more effective and efficient operations. Also, as part of a required coursework, our students in the Ph.D. program collaborate closely with criminal justice agencies to develop and assess the implementation of various strategies such as victim/witness programs and day reporting centers” said Dr. Deborah Keeling, Associate Dean for Faculty Affairs, Justice Department at the University of Louisville.

PSA-Court also uses a data driven risk assessment tool, developed by the Arnold Foundation, to help inform judicial decisions about which defendants should be detained and which defendants can most safely be released prior to trial. The report says that, “defendants flagged by the PSA-Court as being at an increased risk of violence are rearrested for violent acts at a rate of 17 times higher than that of defendants who are not flagged.

The full report from the Arnold Foundation on the Public Safety Assessment in Kentucky is available for viewing online.

The Laura and John Arnold Foundation (LJAF) is a private foundation with offices in Houston and New York City. The Foundation is currently focused on the three primary issue areas: Criminal Justice Reform, K-12 Public Education, and Public Accountability. The Foundation’s “core objective is to produce substantial, widespread and lasting national and community reforms that will maximize opportunities and minimize injustice in our society.”

If you’re interested in developing superior expertise in the field of criminal justice, join our elite education program at the bachelor’s, master’s or Ph.D. levels. To apply and enroll to the criminal justice degrees offered online at the University of Louisville, please visit our program page on