By Brad Ray, Assistant Professor
This summer, researchers at the IU Public Policy Institute will begin work with the Indiana Judicial Center on a three-year study of nine counties in Indiana that are implementing a pretrial risk assessment program. The use of pretrial risk assessments is part of a larger movement in the United States toward the use of evidence-based pretrial practices.
Too often, low risk defendants sit in jail simply because they cannot afford bail. While awaiting trial, they face the risk of additional negative outcomes such as job loss, defaulting on payments, or losing pro-social ties within the community. Evidence-based pretrial practices include enacting policies and practices that eliminate unnecessary incarceration while preserving public safety. All nine pilot sites will administer the Indiana Risk Assessment System Pretrial Assessment Tool (IRAS-PAT) as soon as possible after arrest and use the risk assessment results to inform pretrial release decisions.
The IRAS-PAT was designed to be brief and takes less than 15 minutes to administer. It involves a face-to-face interview of only seven questions as well as a verification of information through official records. Based on one’s responses, a score is constructed that puts arrestees in categories of low, medium, or high risk for a failure-to-appear or a new arrest during the pretrial period.
Each of the nine counties in the pilot study has proposed their own process to administer the IRAS-PAT and how the results will be used to inform pretrial release decisions. Therefore, the first part of the study being conducted by the Public Policy Institute will examine how the IRAS-PAT is being implemented in each site. This will include interviews with key stakeholders in each of the counties to document how the IRAS-PAT be administered to new arrestees, when and how often this will be done, and how information about risk scores will be presented to judges. Researchers will also identify barriers to implementation that might be overcome as well as perceived benefits of using the IRAS-PAT. Later parts of the evaluation will focus on examining whether there were significant reductions in pretrial jail days in each site as a result of administering and using the IRAS-PAT in pretrial release decisions.
You can read more about the pretrial release pilot evaluation here.