The Virginia Pretrial Risk Assessment Instrument: Applying Research to Public Policy

Marie Van Nostrand, Luminosity, Inc.

The Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS) developed the Virginia Pretrial Risk Assessment Instrument to assist judicial officers in making the bail decision (to release or detain a defendant pending trial). The instrument utilizes nine risk factors to classify a defendant in one of five risk levels. The risk levels indicate the risk of failure (failure to appear for a scheduled court appearance or arrest for a new offense) for defendants pending trial. The risk factors include measures of criminal history, residence, employment, and substance abuse. Consideration was given during instrument development to ensure the instrument was not biased toward any group based on sex, race, income, or community type. The instrument will be completed by Pretrial Services programs across the Commonwealth and provided to judicial officers to assist them in making the bail decision. Improved bail decisions provide substantial benefits to the defendants, community, and the criminal justice system including increased public safety, protection of the presumption of innocence, expeditious court case flow, effective utilization of criminal justice and community resources, and a reduction in the potential for disparity in bail decisions. This paper details the research completed to develop the Virginia Pretrial Risk Assessment Instrumenty.

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Updated 05/20/2006