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New Orleans Seeks to Expand Pretrial Evaluations

After just a few months of operation, prosecutors and court officials agree: pretrial evaluations of defendants should be expanded in New Orleans.

The tool, which uses interviews shortly after arrest to objectively evaluate risk factors (or lack thereof), has been credited with aiding courts in New Orleans with information critical to making smart pretrial detention decisions. Based on an individual defendant’s risks and likelihood to reappear, the pretrial evaluation creates a recommendation on bail or detention decisions.

Even if the recommendation is not ultimately wholly adopted (judges still, as always, make the final call), court officials still find the information highly useful. The evaluation both flags those who pose serious safety risks and should be detained, as well as those who can be safely released prior to their court date, freeing up valuable jail beds.

New Orleans prosecutors and court managers would like the program expanded to include more defendants—its current capacity stretches to just about 60 percent of persons accused of felonies. The assessments curry broad support, from the Sheriff to prosecutors and judges.

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