The Pretrial Services Agency for the District of Columbia (PSA) provides a wide range of supervision programs to support the D.C. Superior Court and the U.S. District Court. Some defendants are released without conditions, but the majority of defendants are supervised by PSA. These defendants have a wide variety of risk profiles, from those posing limited risk and requiring condition monitoring, to those posing considerable risk and needing extensive release conditions such as frequent drug testing, stay away orders, substance use disorder treatment or mental health treatment and/or frequent contact requirements with Pretrial Services Officers. PSA also has a number of programs that provide increasing levels of restrictive and specialized supervision.
In addition to the extensive conditions noted above, the highest risk defendants may be subject to electronically monitored curfew, home confinement, tracking by global positioning systems or residence in a halfway house. Sanctions for this population are immediate. Throughout the pretrial release period, PSA notifies the Court, prosecution, and defense of non-compliance with release conditions, and provides daily courtroom support on pretrial matters. All PSA supervision programs give defendants the opportunity to participate in pro-social interventions that decrease the likelihood of future criminal behavior. As the sole pretrial services agency serving the D.C. Superior Court and the U.S. District Court, PSA supervises or monitors over 20,000 defendants each year. At any given time, over 5,000 defendants are under pretrial supervision. On average, defendants with misdemeanor cases in D.C. Superior Court are under pretrial release for four months and felony cases are under pretrial release for five months. Defendants in U.S. District Court average approximately six months on pretrial release. PSA provides the following types of supervision:
Over 50 percent of defendants are released to PSA’s general supervision and community court programs. PSA also may be called upon to supervise defendants on release from other federal districts who reside or work in the District and arranges for defendants who live in other federal districts to be supervised by the federal pretrial services agency in the home district.
High Risk Supervision
Defendants are placed under high risk supervision when the court has determined them to be high safety or appearance risks and that they need an increased level of supervision through weekly contact, drug testing, and/or location monitoring. Those defendants in PSA’s High Intensity Supervision Program (HISP) that are reported as non-compliant with the curfew condition may be “stepped back” to a period of home confinement. PSA also jointly monitors high risk defendants ordered into the Department of Corrections’ Work Release Program that reside in community-based halfway houses.
Supervision for Special Populations
Because substance use disorders often coexist with mental health problems, an effective supervision program also must be able to address the needs of those with co-occurring substance use and mental health disorders.
PSA's Specialized Supervision Unit (SSU) provides specialized services and supervision to defendants with mental illness, mild mental retardation and/or co-occurring substance use and mental health disorders. In administering these services, the SSU works collaboratively with the District’s Department of Behavioral Health (DBH), the Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities Administration, and designated mental health service providers. The Options Program is a separate program within the SSU with services funded by DBH that has a limited capacity and features a DBH service provider with a reduced caseload ratio to provide intensified supervision services. A limited number of housing placements are available. The SSU is operated by PSA‘s Treatment Program and provides critical support for the D.C. Superior Court‘s Mental Health Community Court.
PSA’s Treatment Program also operates the D.C. Misdemeanor/Traffic Initiative, which provides supervision to certain defendants in need of substance use disorder or mental health-related treatment. Targeted defendants are those who need treatment and are charged with certain misdemeanors prosecuted by the D.C. Office of the Attorney General. PSA identifies, screens, drug tests, assesses, links with services, and provides basic pretrial supervision and court reporting for these defendants.