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Pretrial Services Cases Show Steady Growth
The number of criminal defendants supervised under the federal Judiciary’s pretrial services system has grown in each of the last five fiscal years.
The number of pretrial services cases activated in FY 2006 was 94,853, and that number grew to 96,259 in FY 2007, 98,244 in FY 2008, and 110,547 in FY 2010, the 12 month-period ending September 30, 2010.
The pretrial services function of the federal courts takes place at the very start of the criminal justice process—after a person has been arrested and charged with a federal crime and before he or she goes to trial. Pretrial services officers focus on investigating the backgrounds of these persons to help the court determine whether to release or detain them while they await trial. The decision is based on whether these individuals are likely to flee or pose a threat to the community. If the court orders release, a pretrial services officer supervises the person in the community until he or she returns to court. In 2010, PSOs prepared 107,256 pretrial services reports.
Congress authorized “demonstration” pretrial services agencies in 1974 with a goal to reduce crime by persons released to the community pending trial and to reduce unnecessary pretrial detention. President Ronald Reagan signed the Pretrial Services Act of 1982, which expanded the system Judiciary-wide.
For additional information on pretrial services, including history, articles on pretrial risk, and definitions of commonly used terms, visit the federal court’s website at www.uscourts.gov/FederalCourts/ProbationPretrialServices.aspx.