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Bail Reform

Gavel resting on judge's desk

Latest Update:

To date, our work on bail reform has centered on pretrial risk assessment tools and current bail practices. Briefly, pretrial risk assessment tools are designed to increase structure, consistency, and accuracy in the evaluation of the likelihood of pretrial outcomes, such as failure to appear in court or new crime, through consideration of items shown in research to be associated with these behaviors. We are finishing a study in examining the degree to which pretrial risk assessment tools forecast pretrial outcomes. We have shared these findings at multiple conferences and community meetings. Additionally, we are working in partnership with community and government stakeholders to support their efforts to implement strategies that lead to more evidence-based pretrial decision-making. We also have supported efforts on a national level through Dr. Desmarais’ service on the MacArthur Foundation’s Safety and Justice Challenge Pretrial Risk Management Workgroup. In this capacity, she wrote a primer for lawyers and judges that describes the principles of risk assessment and its potential use in bail reform, which is available here

What’s Next:

Our vision for the future of this work includes continuing to support counties and states as they explore the use of the pretrial risk assessment tools in the context of bail reform and to identify strategies that support equitable decision making across racial/ethnic groups and socioeconomic status.  

For more information on this project, contact Dr. Sarah L. Desmarais at