History of SF Pretrial


The Pilot

In 1964, the San Francisco Bar Association established the Own Recognizance (O.R.) Project. This agency, which later transitioned to SF Pretrial, was unprecedented in the criminal justice community at that time and required the cooperation of the Courts, District Attorney, Public Defender, SFPD, Adult Probation, and Sheriff. In 1968, the San Francisco Bar Association received an “Award of Merit” in recognition of their work in sponsoring this project.

The O.R. Project, originally designed to operate for two years as a pilot, has now been in place for over 50 years. It merged with SF Pretrial in 1994, and its unique, independent role has always been viewed as vital to its effectiveness. A 1965 Bar Association of  San Francisco article recognized that “because of the non-adversary nature of the proceedings, some agency whose function is non-adversary, appears best suited to assume responsibility for future operations.”

SF Pretrial TODAY

Strategic Growth and New Programs

Since its inception, SF Pretrial has added more programs designed to address the various needs of the court, its clients, and the community. Currently, SF Pretrial’s programs include:

1) Alternatives to fines through our Street and Environmental Services Program and Projects 20 and 22

2) Restorative Justice model to resolve non-violent and misdemeanor crimes (in partnership with the District Attorney’s Office and the Neighborhood Courts)

3) Dismissal of charges for first-time misdemeanor offenders in exchange for completion of a treatment plan

4) Facilitated release through the Own Recognizance Project

5 ) Assertive Case Management (ACM) for high-need clients

6) Internal anger management, substance abuse, mental health, therapeutic groups and services

7) Connections to local housing, education and behavioral health programs

8) Support for Veterans and Parole Reentry Courts

9) Enrollment in Medi-Cal for in-custody clients.me responsibility for future operations


Addressing Equity

In early 2015, San Francisco began the process of assessing readiness and implementing the Arnold Foundation’s Public Safety Assessment (PSA), a risk tool that promotes safety, equity, and justice, in consultation with Justice System Partners. As the agency providing court and criminal history summaries, SF Pretrial was identified as a lead stakeholder in the implementation process.  

The PSA Working Group was established in August 2015 and consists of partners from the Sheriff’s Department, Superior Court, SF Pretrial, District Attorney’s Office, Public Defender’s Office, SF Criminal Conflicts Panel, and SF Reentry Council/Division of Adult Probation Department.  The Working Group reviewed and advised on the timeline; provided input into the California PSA Violent Offenses List; and developed the Decision Making Framework, Court Report Template, Quality Assurance and Outcome Measures. The PSA Working Group continues to meet on a quarterly basis. All materials developed by the PSA Working Group are maintained by SF Pretrial.

SF Pretrial is currently working with the California Policy Lab (CPL) to create an interactive dashboard and detailed reports tracking outcomes, client demographics, and concurrence rates. CPL is analyzing PSA data and its impact on racial and ethnic disparities in release decisions, which will inform San Francisco’s criminal justice system and efforts to address equity.