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Probation and Pretrial Services – Annual Report 2019

Probation and pretrial services offices strive to achieve positive changes in individuals under supervision while also protecting the community. Using evidence-based practices and innovative technology, these offices focus on the efficient use of limited resources to maintain public safety and steadily reduce recidivism.

Image of Student trainees studying for careers as probation officers.

Trainees study for careers as probation officers.

Pretrial Release Rates Increase

In fiscal year 2019, the percentage of defendants released during the pretrial phases of criminal proceedings, excluding defendants in the country illegally, increased to 42 percent from 40 percent the previous year. The increase marked a reversal of previous trends of declining release rates. For example, the pretrial release rate declined from 45 percent in FY 2015 to 40 percent in FY 2018. During the same period, the percentage of defendants recommended for release by pretrial service officers reflected a similar pattern. Changes in release rates and release recommendation rates have not been associated with significant increases in missed court appearances or rearrests for crimes committed while on pretrial release. About 1 percent of defendants missed their court appearances and 2 percent were rearrested for new crimes while on release. These failure rates have changed little since 2016.

Improving Officer Wellness and Safety

In response to reports of increased officer stress and serious safety incidents nationwide, the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts (AO) began working with staff from probation and pretrial services offices around the country to address officer wellness. Officers need additional resources to prepare, address, and react to stressful situations that they routinely encounter in carrying out their official duties. The AO developed electronic training programs focused on officer wellness, which were viewed by thousands of probation and pretrial services staff in the field. Assisted by officers from across the country, the AO also hosted the first national wellness conference in St. Louis, MO, and convened a focus group to discuss the physical, mental, and emotional well-being of officers.

Better Case Tracking Technology

The AO began work in 2019 on replacing the Probation and Pretrial Services Automated Case Tracking System (PACTS) with a new, up-to-date system. The project will replace the current aging system with a highly configurable and cloud-based system that is more efficient and easier to use, with “sandbox” features for testing and experimentation. The PACTS system is vital to the work of pretrial and probation officers. It is their main case management system, used to manage the supervision and investigation of defendants and offenders. The new system will provide a single database for all federal offender and defendant records, from pretrial interview and bail reports to presentence investigation documents.  It will also facilitate greater data sharing among pretrial and probation offices nationwide. After a thorough review of vendor proposals is completed in 2019, the AO plans to award a contract in early 2020.