Pretrial Research

Each time a person is arrested and accused of a crime, a decision must be made as to whether the accused person, known as the defendant, will be released back into the community or detained in jail awaiting trial.  A critical component of the pretrial stage of the justice system is the release decision — to release or detain a defendant pending trial and the setting of terms and conditions.

There are two primary systems of pretrial release in our country – resource-based and risk-based.  The most prevalent is the resource-based system which relies on a defendant’s financial resources to determine if they are released or detained pretrial.  A risk-based system, on the other hand, relies on a defendant’s risk of failing to appear in court and the danger they pose to the community.  Shifting from a resource-based to a risk-based system of pretrial release requires evidence-based risk measurement tools and risk management strategies.

Luminosity has conducted research that shows the impact of a resource-based system of pretrial release including the unnecessary detention of defendants who are disproportionately minority and who are more likely to plead guilty, be sentenced to incarceration (and for longer periods of time), and are more likely to return to the criminal justice system post-disposition (see Release and Detention Decision). 

In support of a risk-based system of pretrial release, we have conducted extensive research to develop risk measurement tools (see Risk Measurement) and risk management strategies (see Risk Management). Luminosity’s pretrial research efforts, attention, and resources are focused on developing and implementing the best risk measurement tools and risk management strategies to ensure the safest, fairest, most cost effective and unbiased system of pretrial justice.