New York — The Laura and John Arnold Foundation (LJAF) is expanding access to a suite of resources that will help jurisdictions implement its pretrial risk assessment, known as the Public Safety Assessment (PSA), while convening an advisory board that includes a retired judge, mathematician, and leading scholars. The expert panel will guide LJAF as it develops its pretrial research agenda in parallel with increased technical assistance support — a combined approach that is unprecedented in the field.
The launch of www.psapretrial.org, which houses the risk assessment resources, comes as more than 600 jurisdictions across the nation have expressed interest in implementing the approach. The PSA, which provides judges with data-driven assessments to consider in making pretrial decisions, was developed to increase public safety, promote the fair treatment of all individuals, and ensure the responsible use of taxpayer funds.
“We are grateful for the collaboration of many partners who have helped us think expansively and critically about pretrial justice, and risk assessment’s role in that movement,” said Jeremy Travis, LJAF’s executive vice president of criminal justice. “The PSA website and Research Advisory Board will allow us to connect with practitioners and experts as we conduct research and continue to evolve the PSA in accordance with the latest science and LJAF’s commitment to a fair and effective criminal justice system.”
The website offers any interested jurisdiction a robust array of resources to support implementation of the PSA. The resources have been carefully developed in partnership with technical assistance providers, current PSA jurisdiction leaders, and other valued stakeholders; they capture and distill LJAF’s years of experience helping local jurisdictions implement risk assessment.
Available resources include implementation guides that walk jurisdictions through site training, change management, and research and testing details; summaries of research to date; information about the features, purpose, and history of the PSA; and a Help Desk for registered users.
In addition to making the PSA widely available, the Foundation is undertaking an ambitious research agenda to study pretrial risk assessment. In particular, the research will evaluate the PSA algorithm using a variety of sophisticated statistical methods. The new PSA website will help to disseminate research findings and any updates to the PSA itself.
To do this research well, and to offer greater transparency and objectivity, LJAF has brought together a group of experts, including policy makers, practitioners, and researchers, to participate in the Pretrial Research Advisory Board. The Advisory Board will provide guidance on LJAF’s pretrial research agenda, review proposals, help review research as it rolls in, and suggest additional research topics for future consideration. One of the Advisory Board’s primary objectives is to analyze research proposals and offer recommendations on how those proposals can be improved and which should be considered for funding by the LJAF Board.
The seven Advisory Board members include Judge Ronald Adrine, Retired Judge, Cleveland Municipal Court; Dr. Alexandra Chouldechova, Assistant Professor, Carnegie Mellon University; Dr. Cathy O’Neil, mathematician and author of "Weapons of Math Destruction" (2016); Mr. Jim Sawyer, Executive Director, National Association of Pretrial Services Agencies; Dr. Ilya Shpitser, Assistant Professor, Johns Hopkins University; Dr. Jennifer Skeem, Associate Dean of Research & Mack Distinguished Professor, University of California, Berkeley; and Dr. Sandra Susan Smith, Associate Professor, University of California, Berkeley.
In 2012, LJAF developed the PSA to help reduce unnecessary pretrial detention while improving the rate of court appearances and enhancing public safety. Approximately 40 jurisdictions currently use the PSA, including the states of Arizona, Kentucky, and New Jersey. Early research results are promising, showing reductions in pretrial jail populations, rates of failure to appear, and rates of crimes committed by those on pretrial release.
For more information about LJAF’s work in pretrial reform, please see In Conversation with Members of LJAF’s Pretrial and Research Teams and the Pretrial Research Advisory Board.