WSAC participated on Washington’s Pretrial Reform Task Force that was convened by the Washington State Minority and Justice Commission, the Superior Court Judges’ Association, and the District and Municipal Court Judges’ Association in June 2017. There were more than 55 members on this Task Force who met over an 18-month period.
The Task Force examined current pretrial practices in Washington and developed consensus-driven recommendations for jurisdictions to improve their pretrial decisions. The report, published on February 21, 2019, is separated into three categories – pretrial services; risk assessment; and data collection – and has several major findings that include:
- Additional support mechanisms are needed to assist accused persons in attending court, including reminders of court dates, transportation vouchers, and referrals to voluntary community services such as drug and mental health services. Research finds that pretrial services and conditions are effective in ensuring accused persons return to court for their hearings and meetings;
- Data needs to be more routinely and uniformly collected in Washington courts to ensure a better understanding of pretrial practices and the effectiveness of reform efforts. Little information is currently collected regarding pretrial factors, decisions or outcomes; and
- Several Washington courts have adopted pretrial risk assessment tools. The report does not make a recommendation regarding the use of these tools but recommends courts using them to consider practices to measure performance and ensure transparency and equality. While it will never replace judicial discretion, actuarial pretrial risk assessment tools are one additional piece of information that can assist in release decisions.
- The final Task Force report includes nineteen recommendations that will hopefully lead jurisdictions to have more transparency and open communication with partners; inclusivity of ideas based on evidence-based practices; and a commitment to work toward pretrial reforms.