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Creating a National Pretrial Data Base - A Feasibility Study

NCJ Number
Date Published
November 1984
Since there is no existing data mechanism with accurate measures of defendant activity during the pretrial stage, this study determines whether accurate and comprehensive pretrial data can be collected locally, transferred to the State and Federal levels, and aggregated.

The study's data development stage identified those significant data elements that provide a representative national statistical picture of the pretrial stage. Twenty State court administrators were interviewed to determine the types of pretrial data collected locally and the extent to which information is transferred to the State level. Results showed that a good deal of State-level information is maintained on arrest date and charges, filing date and charges, and disposition and sentence; somewhat less data are available on defendants' prior records and pretrial release, while only a few States maintain any local information on failure to appear and pretrial rearrest. A survey of eight Statistical Analysis Center directors inquired about the availability of pretrial data in their States, their interest in participating in a national reporting system, and their role in such a system. Although all of the directors had thought about developing plans for collecting pretrial data, only four States could provide feedback on how such a reporting system would operate in their States. A pretest in three selected sites allowed local courts to gather the specified data elements and elicited their feedback on conducting such an effort. Results showed that pretrial data are available; court administrators can gather the data; and mechanisms exist for getting the data to the State court administrator's office, who in turn indicated a willingness to transfer it to the Federal level for aggregation and analysis. Recommendations are offered for the next step in the study, and the appendixes contain the data collection instrument, a discussion of the data availability in each test site, and results of the State court administrator survey by State.

Date Published: November 20, 1984