Picture of gavel and handcufsPretrial defendants can be released from jail in several ways.

Some defendants are released on their own recognizance and supervised by a court. Others are evaluated and released under the supervision of a pretrial release program. At least 33 states and the District of Columbia currently use such pretrial programs to some degree.

Many of these programs utilize risk assessments to help identify defendants who are suitable for release. Risk assessments are increasingly used by states looking to employ evidence-based practices to protect the public and make the most effective use of criminal justice resources. These and other best practices for pretrial release are designed to reduce recidivism rates, improve compliance with release conditions and ensure court appearances.

This report was prepared under a partnership project of the National Conference of State Legislatures' Criminal Justice Program in Denver, and the Public Welfare Foundation in Washington DC. NCSL gratefully acknowledges the Public Welfare Foundation's support of and assistance to NCSL and state legislatures. For information about the project, see NCSL's Criminal Justice Program Partners page.

Additional Resources

·         Criminal Justice homepage

·         Pretrial Release homepage

·         Pretrial Laws Database

·         Trends in Pretrial Release: State Legislation