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Delaware Docket Newsletter
Fall 2013

The Justice of the Peace Court Rolls Out New Pretrial
Risk Assessment Tool

"I very much appreciate all the hard work by our Judges, staff and system partners in creating the pretrial risk assessment tool. I am hopeful that the tool will assist us to make more informed bail decisions that weigh the rights of the accused, protect public safety and assure orderly court process."

Chief Magistrate Alan Davis, Justice of the Peace Court

The Justice of the Peace Court will begin using the pretrial risk assessment tool developed in response to Senate Bill 226, which was enacted on August 8, 2012. SB 226, which seeks to promote informed decision-making by institutionalizing the use of a pretrial risk assessment for release decisions, is based on recommendations issued by the Governor's Justice Reinvestment Task Force. The Task Force, established by executive order on July 25, 2011, was created to examine the state's criminal justice system and find ways to reduce costs, improve public safety and prevent recidivism. The Justice of the Peace Court has worked closely with DELJIS, the Criminal Justice Council, the Vera Institute (a non-profit center for justice policy and practice that focuses on justice reform initiatives), and other criminal justice agencies to create the tool and implementation plan. Roll out of the pretrial risk assessment tool is targeted for December, 2013.

The new pretrial risk assessment instrument applies research-based objective criteria to assist the court in identifying the likelihood that a defendant will fail to appear and/or pose a danger to the community during the pretrial stage. The new law also requires that the instrument must be responsive to the needs of victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. To support this mandate, the instrument will include a section identifying whether the offense included domestic violence, sexual assault or the use of firearms and/or deadly weapons. The instrument will also include flags for persons convicted of breach of release, violation of no contact, or protection from abuse orders. Once it is put into place, the tool will undergo a validation process conducted by the Criminal Justice Council and the Vera Institute, to determine whether the risk factors are statistically significant in driving outcomes for release that strengthen community safety.