In 2016, San Francisco’s justice system partners implemented the Public Safety Assessment (PSA). Developed by Arnold Ventures, a philanthropic foundation, the PSA is designed to guide pretrial release decisions, informing which community interventions and support may be needed for each released person. Judges review the PSA in conjunction with other case information prior to determining whether pretrial release is appropriate for a given case.
Arnold Ventures has invested in an array of key policy areas, including bail reform. Their efforts have included spearheading national research projects; providing technical assistance to cities, counties, and states; and creating grant opportunities for new public policy, training, and research initiatives.
The PSA is designed to provide data-driven information to judges and attorneys. San Francisco’s justice system partners adopted the PSA in order to:
1) facilitate desired pretrial outcomes, including high rates of public safety, court appearance, and release;
2) reduce bias and
3) encourage release on the “least restrictive” conditions needed to secure public safety and appearance in court.
The PSA does not incorporate information pertaining to race, gender, income, education, or employment status. Instead, it uses administrative data, pulled from the individual’s criminal history, to compute a general recommendation for the court’s review. Judges and attorneys necessarily review criminal history information when making pretrial release decisions, and the PSA serves to distill that data in a way that is consistent across all individuals. In addition to reviewing the PSA, Superior Court judges will consider pertinent case details, the police report, and arguments from the defense and prosecution before determining whether release to pretrial services is appropriate.
The PSA has been implemented in jurisdictions across the country, including Utah, Arizona, Kentucky, New Jersey. In California, the PSA is currently being implemented by at least 11 different counties.
Recently, a local research center at UC Berkeley completed a study on the effectiveness and accuracy of the Public Safety Assessment. The research center, California Policy Lab, assessed whether the PSA has been an accurate indicator of pretrial success and whether it creates differential outcomes based on race or gender. The full report can be found here. Our statement regarding the validation study and its interpretation can be found here.
If you have any questions, please contact SF Pretrial’s CEO, David Mauroff: firstname.lastname@example.org