Building Collaborations for Future Research on Pretrial Release


The Building Collaborations for Future Research on Pretrial Release project was developed in response to the need to establish a stronger knowledge base about effective alternatives to financial release conditions following arrest. Recent findings from MDRC’s Pretrial Justice Collaborative suggest that commonly employed pretrial release conditions are no more effective than release without conditions for ensuring that individuals return to court and avoid new arrest pending trial.

Building upon these initial findings, the current project seeks to assess both interest and capacity of jurisdictions nationwide to engage in the development of high-volume, generalizable pretrial research. To accomplish this, researchers in the MDRC Center for Criminal Justice Research conducted a series of diagnostic and relationship-building conversations with key pretrial stakeholders in a diverse sample of state and county-level jurisdictions.

Agenda, Scope, and Goals

Successful implementation of research on pretrial release requires firm partnerships with jurisdictions where existing case volume is large, where data systems are robust, and where court leadership and pretrial service providers demonstrate a strong commitment to the research objectives. Specifically, MDRC seeks to assess the feasibility of research with prospective partners in the following areas:

  • Comparative effectiveness of pretrial special conditions
  • Service-oriented pretrial program models
  • Impact of COVID-19 on pretrial supervision

Design, Sites, and Data Sources

The project team has partnered with pretrial stakeholders from 13 jurisdictions in six states. These stakeholders vary by jurisdiction and include representatives from pretrial services programs, public defender’s offices, offices of court administration, and regional detention and community corrections divisions.

Assessment conversations cover each jurisdictions’ pretrial process, including use of risk assessment tools, existing mechanisms of release, specialized services and/or other conditions of release, data elements and management systems, case volume, current and prior research partnerships, and areas of research interest.