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Publication Federal Pretrial Release and Detention, 1996

John Scalia

February 1, 1999    NCJ 168635

Describes pretrial release and detention practices in the federal criminal justice system. The Bureau of Justice Statistics initiated this report at the request of the U.S. Attorney for the Federal judicial district of Minnesota. At the time of the request, the U.S. Attorney for Minnesota indicated that there was public concern in Minneapolis regarding the possibility of racial disparity in Federal pretrial release and detention practices. This report indicates pretrial release and detention decisions made by the Federal judiciary are based on statutorily prescribed factors. These factors include: the seriousness of the offense committed; the defendant's criminal history; and the defendant's ties to the community.

Highlights:

  • Thirty-four percent of the 56,982 defendants charged with a Federal offense were ordered detained by the court pending adjudication of the charges.
  • Defendants charged with violent (49.7%), immigration (47.9%), or drug trafficking (45.7%) offenses were detained by the court for the entire pretrial period at a greater rate than other offenders.
  • Defendants with a criminal history were ordered detained at a greater rate than first-time arrestees: 38.4% of defendants with at least one prior arrest were ordered detained compared to 26.7% of first-time arrestees.

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