The Kentucky Pretrial Services program has served as a model for other states and has received national recognition for its ongoing success.
In 1976, Kentucky became the first state in the country to abolish bail bonding for profit. The Kentucky General Assembly created the Pretrial Services Agency to administer a pretrial release program as a division of the Administrative Office of the Courts. Since the program began, pretrial officers have interviewed more than 2.7 million defendants. Pretrial officers serve all 120 Kentucky counties and are on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
The Pretrial Services program operates under the premise, supported by federal and state constitutions, that defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty and are entitled to reasonable bail. Defendants are entitled to the least restrictive release terms possible, depending on whether they are likely to appear in court and whether they present a risk to public safety.
As a defendant’s case makes its way through Kentucky courts, pretrial officers strive to perform an essential service in a fair, effective manner.
The Interview Process
Pretrial officers interview defendants within 12 hours of arrest. They verify the information provided, perform extensive criminal background checks and utilize a risk-assessment to help them anticipate the conduct of the defendant. The officer then makes a recommendation to the circuit judge or district judge about whether a defendant is eligible for release.
A defendant’s release is based on an assessment of his or her flight risk, anticipated criminal behavior and danger to the community.These factors are measured by the defendant’s family ties, employment, education, length of residence, criminal history and other related matters.
Judges use the information provided by the pretrial officer to determine the likelihood that the defendant will appear for trial and whether the defendant poses a threat to the community. All information is strictly confidential and is only used for court-related purposes.
If the judge determines that a defendant can be released pending trial, he or she can apply a broad range of release alternatives. These options range from releasing a person on his or her own recognizance to detention. Once the defendant is released, the pretrial officer verifies his or her attendance at each scheduled court appearance and monitors any conditions placed on the defendant by the court.