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Pretrial Release and Detention: The Bail Reform Act of 1984

NCJ Number
Date Published
February 1988
This special report examines the effects of substantial changes in Federal pretrial release and detention practices under the Bail Reform Act of 1984.

It examines changes in the likelihood that defendants will be held until trial, the rate of pretrial detentions, the characteristics of defendants held until trial, and violation rates for defendants released before trial. The report compared defendants whose prebail investigation started between August 1 and December 31, 1983, with those from the same months in 1985. The study subjects were defendants whose cases were concluded within 12 months. Results suggest that pretrial detention has been used as an alternative to bail and to hold defendants. Both the percent of defendants held at any time before trial and the average time held increased after the Act. Defendants held at any time increased from 40 percent to 50 percent, and the average length of time held increased from 50 days to 53 days. The likelihood of being held until trial was 21 percent higher after the act for defendants charged with violent offenses involving firearms, 20 percent higher for persons charged with drug offenses carrying possible 10-year penalties, and 26 percent higher for persons charged with other drug offenses. The survey showed an increase in the percent of defendants violating their conditions of release from 5 percent to 7 percent due mainly to an increase in technical violations. Tabular data.

Date Published: February 1, 1988