PSA's Role in the Criminal Justice System
The Pretrial Services Agency for the District of Columbia (PSA) performs two critically important tasks that contribute significantly to the effective administration of justice.
PSA gathers and presents information about newly arrested defendants and available release options for use by judicial officers in deciding what, if any, conditions are to be set for released defendants. PSA recommends the least restrictive conditions of release to the community that promote public safety and return to court. Virtually no defendants currently are released on surety bonds from D.C. Superior Court, which PSA considers as one of its measures of success.
PSA supervises defendants released from custody during the pretrial period by monitoring their compliance with certain conditions of release and helping to assure that they appear for scheduled court hearings. PSA supervision gives defendants the opportunity to participate in a variety of pro-social interventions in an effort to decrease the likelihood of future criminal behavior.
A judicial officer – a judge or magistrate judge – makes the initial pretrial release decision after taking into account the representations of the prosecutor and the defense attorney, as well as PSA‘s release recommendation. PSA provides objective, verified data about each defendant to assist in judicial decision-making. PSA recommendations are designed to manage flight and public safety risks associated with releasing defendants. Throughout the pretrial release period, PSA notifies the Court, prosecution, and defense counsel of defendant non-compliance. This information allows all of the parties to respond promptly to violations and fulfill their common purpose of serving the community.
When PSA performs these tasks, unnecessary pretrial detention is minimized, jail crowding is reduced, public safety is increased and the pretrial release process is administered fairly.