Research shows that defendants who pose little threat to public safety but cannot afford to pay money bail often spend unnecessary time in jail awaiting trial, while defendants who pose a threat to public safety are frequently released from pretrial detention. In partnership with leading criminal justice researchers, the Laura and John Arnold Foundation developed the Public Safety Assessment (PSA) to improve pretrial decision making by providing judges with more information.
Researchers designed the PSA based on the largest, most diverse set of pretrial records ever assembled—750,000 cases from nearly 300 jurisdictions. Based on a comprehensive analysis of the data, researchers identified the nine factors that best predict pretrial risk of failure to appear (FTA), new criminal activity (NCA), and new violent criminal activity (NVCA). The nine factors relate to a person’s age, current charge, and criminal history. The PSA does not rely on factors such as race, ethnicity, or geography.
Since its development, researchers have validated the PSA using more than 650,000 cases from across the country, and further independent research is ongoing. Early research indicates that the PSA is proving to be a reliable and accurate predictor of pretrial outcomes.
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