Pretrial Justice Reform Initiative

New Tools and Resources:


Across the country, police officers and leaders alike often complain that a suspect is back on the street before the officer completes the arrest paperwork. When citizens see the “bad guy” who was just arrested back on the street, they often ask law enforcement why they can’t do something to keep dangerous people off the streets. The answer is often simply because the defendant was able to pay his or her way out of jail.

The inconsistency of policy and guidelines for pretrial release decisions across the U.S. creates a volatile public safety crisis leading to dangerous and even deadly consequences. The November 2009 execution of four Lakewood Washington police officers by a known dangerous offender who was improperly released on cash bond is a compelling example of this imminent danger.

Law enforcement leaders are critical stakeholders in their local criminal justice systems, and as such, have a powerful voice to open the discussion on how pretrial decision-making is handled and the consequences of that system. Police leaders and criminal justice stakeholders at local levels may consider these three key questions:

  • Is some kind of objective and/or validated risk assessment used to help guide bail decisions?
  • Does current law in my jurisdiction allow for judges to deny bail to individuals who pose unmanageable risk of flight or danger?
  • If current law allows for preventive detention, how often and how is it used?


For more information about the impact of pretrial decision making on local community justice and safety, how to engage local stakeholders in a dialogue about pretrial decision making, the value of validated risk assessments, the ability to use preventive detention, or any other questions you may have about IACP’s Pretrial Justice Reform Initiative, please contact Program Manager Jennifer Styles