This study makes an attempt to aggregate, via meta-analysis, what we currently know about pretrial decision making and jurisdictions’ responses to the pretrial population. This meta-analysis began with an exhaustive search for pretrial research which may have revealed the most prominent finding — that being a distinct lack of research that utilizes any amount of methodological rigor. We identified a large number of studies that met our most general criteria (i.e., research about pretrial decision making) but mainly dealt with legal and/or philosophical issues regarding pretrial detention and due process. Studies that utilized empirical data and strong methodological designs were distinctly lacking. Of the studies that could be included, effect sizes were generated that may show some promise for court notification programs, pretrial supervision practices, and the potential effect of restrictive bond schedules. However, strong conclusions cannot be made as the quality of the pretrial research, overall, is weak at best.
The findings of this study hold several policy implications for the field of pretrial research and practice. First, future research studies in the field of pretrial need to focus on methodological quality and rigor. Second, it appears that some conditions of release may be related to a defendant’s likelihood of failure to appear. Third, it appears that none of the conditions of release reviewed in this study are related to a defendant’s likelihood of re-arrest while on pretrial release. Finally, it is recommended that the field of pretrial develop a sound research agenda and execute that plan with rigor, transparency, and an approach that favors the continued cumulation of knowledge.