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Employing standardized risk assessment in pretrial release decisions: Association with criminal justice outcomes and racial equity.
Law and Human Behavior  (IF3.795),  Pub Date : 2020-10-01, DOI: 10.1037/lhb0000413
Douglas B Marlowe,Timothy Ho,Shannon M Carey,Carly D Chadick

OBJECTIVE We examined efforts by a Mississippi court to base pretrial release decisions on risk assessment rather than primarily on bond. HYPOTHESES (a) Pretrial detention will be shorter than that associated with prevailing bond practices in the same counties. (b) Rearrest rates will be lower than a similar pretrial population in a nearby southern state. (c) False positive rates for predicting rearrests will be higher for African American than Caucasian participants. (d) Pretrial detention will be longer for African American participants because of higher risk scores or assessment overrides. METHOD Pretrial defendants (N = 521) completed the Risk and Needs Triage (RANT) within 2 weeks of arrest, and outcomes examined included the length of pretrial detention, index case dispositions, and rearrest rates. RESULTS (a) Pretrial detention averaged approximately 60 days compared with prevailing detentions averaging approximately 90 and 180 days in the same counties. (b) Pretrial rearrest rates were 17 percentage points higher than a similar pretrial population; however, representative comparison data are unavailable to confidently measure recidivism impacts. (c) Positive predictive power did not differ by race in predicting pretrial rearrests, SE = .04, 95% CI [.11, -.06], z = .61, p = .54, d = .08. (d) Despite comparable risk scores, African American participants were detained significantly longer than Caucasian participants (M = 60.92 vs. 45.58 days), p = .038, d = .18, 95% CI [.01, .36], and were less likely to receive a diversion opportunity (11% vs. 23%), p = .009, V = .17. CONCLUSION The observational design precludes causal conclusions; however, risk assessment was associated with shorter pretrial detention than prevailing bond practices with no racial disparities in risk prediction. Greater attention to risk assessment may reduce racial inequities in pretrial conditions. Representative comparison data are needed to measure the recidivism impacts of pretrial reform initiatives. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2020 APA, all rights reserved).