Developers of evidence-based pretrial assessment tools analyze data to identify factors that correlate with pretrial failure. Many tools are developed using a specific county’s or state’s data; one tool—the Public Safety Assessment—was developed using data collected from a national sample.
Since some factors are more predictive than others, tools “weigh” relevant factors to tally a final score. Pretrial assessment tools should be re-tested on a regular basis to ensure they remain valid for the population on which they are used.
While no pretrial assessment tool can eliminate racial and ethnic disparities elsewhere in the criminal justice system, care must be taken to assure that they do not contribute to such disparities. Researchers conducting pretrial assessment tool studies can design methodologies that will provide for race- and gender-neutral outcomes. These tools should be subjected to regular testing to detect and address any resulting racial or gender disparate impact.
PJI recommends that jurisdictions select tools that are open to statistically rigorous review, transparent about their development, factors and weighting, and race- and gender- neutral. Jurisdictions using pretrial assessment tools should also publish aggregate data on how their tool performs—including indicators of disparate impacts.