Predictive Validity of Pretrial Risk Assessments: A Systematic Review of the Literature

Bail reform is sweeping the nation and many jurisdictions are looking to pretrial risk assessment as one potential strategy to support these efforts. This article summarizes the findings of a systematic review of research examining the predictive validity of pretrial risk assessments. We reviewed 11 studies (13 publications) examining the predictive validity of six pretrial risk assessment instruments reported in the gray and peer-reviewed literature as of December, 2018. Findings typically show good to excellent predictive validity. Differences in predictive validity for men and women were mixed and small. When it could be examined, predictive validity was generally comparable across racial/ethnic subgroups; however, three comparisons revealed notably lower, albeit still fair to good, predictive validity for defendants of color than White defendants. Findings suggest that pretrial risk assessments predict pretrial outcomes with acceptable accuracy, but also emphasize the need for continued investigation of predictive validity across gender and racial/ethnic subgroups.

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