A Statement from Advancing Pretrial Policy and Research (APPR)

APPR seeks fair, just, effective pretrial practices, every day, throughout the nation

APPR’s mission is to demonstrate equitable improvements in pretrial outcomes through high-fidelity implementation and comprehensive research on pretrial assessments, policies, and practices. Our work is driven by our project principles, which emphasize that pretrial liberty is the norm, disparities must be eliminated, collaboration between system actors and impacted communities is essential, every interaction is an opportunity to reduce harm, and solutions should be grounded in research and refined by ongoing measurement. Our specific goals are to maximize pretrial court appearance, maximize pretrial release, and effect sustainable change while, at the same time, maintaining community safety and working to eliminate disparities in pretrial policies and practices.

There are differences of opinion in the field about how best to achieve these goals. APPR is committed to improving, studying, and learning from practices that span the entire pretrial process. The national dialogue around these issues is essential as it surfaces both key controversies and ideas for advancements. In particular, there is much debate over the efficacy of pretrial assessments, including the Public Safety Assessment. Hundreds of jurisdictions around the country have implemented, or are considering implementing, pretrial assessments for a variety of reasons. Some seek to ensure that appropriate and timely information is available when judicial officers make critical pretrial decisions. Others seek consistency in decision making from one system stakeholder to the next.

Assessments, including the Public Safety Assessment, can play a positive role in a jurisdiction’s pretrial system. However, implementing an assessment alone cannot and will not result in the pretrial justice goals we seek to achieve. No single strategy, practice, or tool can achieve these ends.

A comprehensive approach is necessary to truly achieve the goals previously articulated or other goals that communities seek to accomplish. Only through deliberate, systemic, collaborative processes among all partners and stakeholders—including the broader community and people impacted most directly by the pretrial system—can we hope to achieve a fair, just, effective system of pretrial justice. Jurisdictions must examine and address policing and law enforcement practices and decision making, pretrial release and detention decision making, and charging and plea practices. We must also ensure effective legal representation for those accused of crime, provide informed support and notification to survivors, and steadfastly pursue strategies that reduce harm to individuals and communities while adhering to the fundamental principles of the law.

Ultimately, no matter the tools or strategy, without an underlying commitment to fairness and equity, a jurisdiction will struggle to achieve its goals. APPR believes that using a pretrial assessment is consistent with our project principles and can contribute to achieving our goals but only when it is used responsibly, as part of a comprehensive effort, and for the stated purposes of achieving fairness and equity.

We thank you for your support of APPR and look forward to continuing to engage in the hard work of improving pretrial justice for all.

Madeline (Mimi) Carter and Alison Shames
Co-Project Directors
Advancing Pretrial Policy and Research

APPR is supported by Arnold Ventures and is a member of the National Partnership for Pretrial Justice. APPR is led by the Center for Effective Public Policy.