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Polk County courts begin using pretrial risk assessments


Polk County district courts today began using the Public Safety Assessment, a pretrial risk assessment, in all pretrial hearings. The PSA assists judges in determining whether to detain or release a defendant before trial, the Iowa Judicial Branch said in a release. Using evidence-based risk factors, the PSA determines the likelihood that a defendant who is released before his or her trial date will fail to return for a future court hearing, commit a criminal act or commit a violent crime upon release. The assessment also recommends supervisory measures that the presiding judge can consider before releasing a defendant before trial. However, the final decision regarding release or detention always lies with the judge. The PSA is intended to serve as a resource for consideration, rather than a replacement for judicial discretion. The assessment was developed by the Laura and John Arnold Foundation after researchers analyzed more than 1.5 million cases from more than 300 U.S. jurisdictions. Researchers tested each risk factor, and the nine predictive factors considered by the PSA are all gender- and race-neutral.

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