Many people have the mistaken idea that “pre-trial services” simply find ways to randomly release people from jail. But nothing could be further from the truth.
By using evidence-based, decision-making practices, pretrial services can divert lower risk, non-violent offenders back into the community while they await trial, thus alleviating our already overcrowded incarceration system.
But how can a court system embrace these pretrial decision processes?
- Best practices or just more of the same? Frustration points, NAPSA Standards, and driving from experience
- Outcome measures with common definitions
- The “no hands” approach to measurement
Justice Clearinghouse Editors (JCH): Chris, you’re a new presenter to the Justice Clearinghouse. Tell us a bit about your background in the arena of pre-trial services?
Chris Williams: I started my career in the probation space and worked closely with the pretrial services team within my county. When I left the probation space, I worked for a company who provided Probation and Pretrial agencies Electronic Monitoring equipment. Fast forward a few years my company switched to software solutions for Pretrial, Probation, Parole, and Diversion programs. My role was to meet with Pretrial programs to learn how their programs work, determine what their painpoints might be and offer solutions to increase program efficacy.
The idea of a Pretrial program is to take LOW-RISK individuals out of jail population
or avoid them from entering jail at all.
JCH: Through your role now, you’ve seen a wide variety of how agencies handle pre-trial services. Can you share some examples of cutting-edge approaches?
Chris: The most cutting-edge programs I have seen in the Pretrial field are using technology not only to increase productivity but also to examine their program as a whole and see what works, what doesn’t, and why. The programs that do just that take their program to the next level.
JCH: What do you think the biggest myth or misconception about pre-trial services is?
Chris: One of the biggest misconceptions is that Pretrial programs are releasing dangerous criminals back into the community. The idea of a Pretrial program is to take LOW-RISK individuals out of jail population or avoid them from entering jail at all. According to PJI, 47% of felony defendants with financial bonds stay in jail because they cannot pay. With the use of technology that is currently available pretrial programs can perform an extensive risk assessment of potential clients to ensure the appropriate individuals are released back into the community.
The most cutting-edge programs I have seen in the Pretrial field
are using technology not only to increase productivity but also to examine their program as a whole,
and see what works, what doesn’t, and why.
JCH: You’ve had an interesting career in this arena! What key experiences or managers helped to shape who you’ve become professionally?
Chris: I would first say that I made the transition from the probation space to the private side based on an opportunity that I couldn’t turn down, this ended up being one of the best decisions I have ever made…besides asking my wife to marry me.
I have been very lucky, in the last 11 years I have worked for two companies which have both allowed me to meet with a lot of different agencies and take more of a consultative approach instead of selling. One of my managers in my past told me “if we wanted someone who can only sell, there are thousands of car salesman looking for work.” He was the one that instilled the idea of trying to figure out where our products fit and where we can help instead of making our products fit.
I think companies that offer solutions to the Public Sector need to hire people who have walked in the same shoes as our clients. Because of my background and others at Tribridge, it helps alleviate some of what I call “whiteboard decisions” where decisions are made around a board table and on a whiteboard instead of meeting and asking our best resources, our customers how we can improve and better serve their industry.