Changing Directions: A Case for a Modern and Empirical Approach to Pretrial Detention and Bail

In many jurisdictions within Louisiana, Bail is set by a Judge upon the issuance of a warrant. That warrant is either issued before the arrest is made[1] or within 48 hours of an arrest[2]. In either event, the judge relies on the factual allegations in the warrant. The dollar amount of bail must be paid to get your loved ones released. This is normally done by contacting a bondsman or posting a property bond.

However, there is a new method bail undertaking that is slowly gaining momentum. This new system, the Public Safety Assessment, was developed by the Laura and John Arnold Foundation.[3] This system uses empirical data that is then scaled, totaled, and put into a decision matrix. This new system does away with cash bond systems, takes the guess work out of determining bond, and assess risk of both failing to appear to court and the risk to our community. Those people who are determined to have low scores present a lower risk that they will commit new crimes while out on bond and lower risk that they will fail to appear.

Currently, PSA is used to determine a person’s bail eligibility and amounts in multiple jurisdictions including:

  1. Arizona (Entire State)[4]
  2. Utah (Entire State)[5]
  3. Kentucky (Entire state)[6]
  4. New Jersey (Entire State)[7]
  5. Texas (Harris county, Dallas County, and Tarrant County)[8]

In each of those jurisdictions, validation studies have proven that of those people who were found to be low risk and were released, the overwhelming majority did not commit another crime while on bond and did not miss any court dates. They further found that those people with low risk scores were 3-5x times more likely to succeed pretrial.

[1] Louisiana Laws – Louisiana State Legislature

[2] Louisiana Laws – Louisiana State Legislature

[3] Pretrial Risk Assessment Now Available to All Interested Jurisdictions; Research Advisory Board Announced | Arnold Ventures

[4] Judicial Branch of Arizona – County of Mohave (

[5] Public Safety Assessment  – Utah Courts (

[6] 3-Predictive-Utility-Study.pdf (

[7] 2019 Annual CJR Report (

[8] Validation-of-the-PSA-in-Harris-County-TX.pdf (

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