New Data Shows Large Number of Pretrial Detainees are Non-Violent, Low Risk
The Kentucky Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC) has examined a snapshot of data from November 1 of last year and found that a majority of pretrial detainees were non-violent offenders.
The new analysis looks at a snapshot of those detained pretrial on November 1, 2018. On that date 10,010 defendants were detained awaiting trial. Of those 10,010, over two-thirds, were eligible for release – the reaming third had some type of hold making them ineligible for release, usually from another jurisdiction.
Of the 6,796 who were eligible for release, 71% were being held for a non-violent, class D Felony offense - the most common of which was drug possession; 38% of those being held for a class D Felony were assessed as having a low risk of failing to appear in court; and 31% were assessed as being a moderate risk of failing to appear.
It’s important to note that the AOC analysis only looked at the inmate population and make up on a single day, and jail populations change frequently. Their findings for that day echo what we’ve seen in other instances. In a previous report, we examined cases from 2016 and found that “of defendants not charged with a violent or sexual offense, 30% or 64,123 – were unable to post a monetary bond. Of those 64,123 a total of 44,997, or just over 70%, were assessed as low or moderate risk.”
Additionally, in June of this year, Ashley Spalding of the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy found that 60% of cases in Kentucky are subject to money bail. These rates are much higher in certain areas of the state, where as few as 4% of defendants are released pretrial.
The larger issue here is that continued pressure on our local jails from detaining non-violent, non-sexual, low risk offenders pretrial is helping to crowd Kentucky’s already overcrowded county jails. Criminal justice resources would be better spent on incarcerating violent and repeat offenders, and programmatic support for individuals re-entering civil society after serving a sentence.
Finally, for this population in particular, alternatives to pretrial detention such as text message notifications - and in some cases GPS monitoring, have proven to be just as effective, or more effective than monetary bond in ensuring court appearances and preventing re-offense pretrial.
Bail reform has been debated in the Kentucky legislature and among reform advocates for a number of years now, but it's time we took a step forward on this issue and began addressing a problem that we have the resources and ability to solve.