United States Pretrial Services Agency

Eastern District of Michigan

Historical Background

Philosophical Foundation

The roots of pretrial services may be traced to Arthur Beeley (1927) and Caleb Foote (1954), who examined the bail systems in Chicago and Philadelphia respectively, and found widespread abuse including: the unnecessary detention on guild, and the impropriety of permitting the professional bondsman to act as release broker for the court. Both critics argued that judges should set bail, not on the basis of the alleged offense or the ability to raise money, but on the overall social background and circumstances of each individual defendant. These points were clearly underscored in Stack v. Boyle(1951) in which the U.S. Supreme Court declared that 'bail must be set after a factual review of each defendant's circumstances and may not be excessive,' i.e., may not be set in an amount greater than needed to assure court appearances. The U.S. Supreme Court later affirmed, in Bandy vs. United States(1960), that 'pretrial detention due solely to the indecency of the defendant, is a clear denial of the fourteenth Amendment.'

The Bail Reform Movement

Bail reform received little serious attention until 1961 when Louis Schweitzer created the Vera Foundation in New York City in response to jails overcrowded with 'presumed innocent' persons. Vera's 3-year experiment, the Manhattan Bail Project, proved the feasibility and efficacy of a system of bail based, not on personal wealth, but on verified social criteria. The success of the Vera Foundation and other similar bail reform programs created interest in reform throughout the country. At the national level, Senator Sam J. Ervin, Jr., introduced bail reform legislation and chaired hearings in 1964 and 1965 before the Senate Subcommittee on Constitutional Rights. The result was the first major change in bail policy in the federal court system since the Judiciary Act of 1789.

The Bail Reform Act of 1966

To revise practices relating to bail, and to eliminate reliance on money as the sole determinant of pretrial release, Congress passed the Bail Reform Act of 1966. The Act provided U.S. judicial officers with standards and guidelines requiring consideration of the accused's overall background and community ties, thereby fostering a more equitable system of bail. Unnecessary detention of the indigent was felt to serve neither the needs of justice nor the public interest. The Act created a presumption of release and required the court to impose the least restrictive conditions of release which provide reasonable assurance that defendants will honor future court commitments.

Title II of the Speedy Trial Act of 1974

While the Bail Reform Act of 1966 required consideration of several factors in determining bail, the federal courts lacked a mechanism by which such information could be verified and made available to judicial officers in a timely fashion. Recognizing the need for this mechanism, Congress enacted Title II of the Speedy Trial Act of 1974. The Act authorized the Director of the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts to establish, on a demonstration basis, pretrial services agencies in 10 representative judicial districts. The agencies were to provide the court with verified information relevant to Bail Reform Act release criteria, serve as an administrative arm to oversee adherence to conditions of release, and to provide necessary services to persons released pending trial. Three benefits were expected: (1) reduction in crime committed by persons released on bail, (2) reduction in the volume and cost of unnecessary pretrial detention, and (3) more effective utilization of the non financial releases provisions of the Bail Reform Act.

Expansion of Pretrial Services

A program which reduces crime on bail and reduces the fugitive rate, while guaranteeing defendants their rights under the eighth amendment, and the Bail Reform Act of 1966, should be available for defendants in every Federal district.

Establishment of Pretrial Services

On September 27, 1982, the Pretrial Services Act of 1982 was signed into law by the President, 'authorizing the Director of the Administrative Office of the United States Courts, under the supervision and direction of the Judicial Conference of the United States, to provide directly, or by contract or otherwise, for the establishment of pretrial services in each U.S. judicial district other than the District of Columbia.

The comprehensive Crime Control Act of 1984

As a reflection of a growing public concern about crimes committed by persons on pretrial release, the Comprehensive Crime Control Act of 1984 placed the consideration of community safety on an equal footing with the consideration of likelihood of appearance at trial as factors in the court's pretrial release decisions. While the Act of 1966, noted the elimination of reliance on financial resources as the sole determinant of pretrial release, the recognition of community safety as a legitimate consideration in pretrial release decisions marks a significant philosophical departure from previous legislation (see Chapter II and Title 18 §141, et. seq.)

Order Establishment of PSA - Eastern District of Michigan

At their regular meeting on Monday, March 5, 1984, the Judges of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan authorized the Chief Judge to sign and enter the following Order: It appears that Congress amended 18 USC §152 to require the Administrative Office of the United States Courts to provide Pretrial Services in each judicial district, and It further appears that with the concurrence of the Judicial Council for the Sixth Circuit this Court is authorized to recommend to the Administrative Office of the United States Courts the establishment of a separate Pretrial Services Agency, and It further appears that the Probation Committee of the Judicial Conference of the United States has recommended the establishment of a separate Pretrial Services Agency in this district, and It further appears that a committee of this Court has carefully reviewed this question and received the views of the Magistrates of the Court, the United States Attorney, the Chief Federal Defender, the District Court Executive, the Chief Probation Officer and the Chief Pretrial Services Officer, and that all of these Officers strongly favor the establishment and maintenance of a separate Pretrial Services Agency except the Chief Probation Officer, Now therefore, IT IS ORDERED that effective March 27, 1984, Pretrial Services in the Eastern District of Michigan are established in a separate Pretrial Services Agency under 18 U.S.C §152(b) to be administered by a Chief Pretrial Services Officer selected under §152(c).