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The State of Science Around Pretrial Risk Assessment

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CE Credits: 1.5 Credits
Length: 1.5 Hours
Level: Introductory
Training Style: Video
Category: GIFR Membership Exclusive
Intended Audience: Mental Health, Correctional, and Legal Professionals

Pretrial risk assessment instruments are used in many jurisdictions to inform decisions regarding pretrial release and conditions. Many are concerned that the use of pretrial risk assessment instruments may be contributing to worsened, not improved, pretrial outcomes, including increased rates of pretrial detention and exacerbated racial disparities. However, there are many misconceptions about pretrial risk assessment instruments themselves, the scientific evidence regarding their predictive validity and impact on pretrial decision-making, and their use in practice. This webinar will first provide an overview of pretrial risk assessment instruments, including a brief background on their history and development. Second, the webinar will review the empirical evidence regarding their predictive validity and impact on decision making, including performance across subgroups defined by race, ethnicity, and gender. Third, the webinar will discuss the role of pretrial risk assessment instruments in current pretrial reform efforts, including recommendations for how their use may support, rather than detract from the goals of increasing equity, promoting, transparency, and reducing unnecessarily restrictive conditions.
Presenter Biographies
Sarah L. Desmarais, Ph.D. is the Senior Vice President and incoming President at Policy Research Associates, Inc. (PRA). PRA is a certified Women-Owned Small Business that is a national leader in behavioral health research, technical assistance, training, and policy evaluation. Dr. Desmarais received her Master’s and PhD in Forensic Psychology and Law from Simon Fraser University following which she completed a postdoctoral fellowship in the School of Population and Public Health at the University of British Columbia. Prior to joining PRA in 2021, Dr. Desmarais was a tenured Professor of Psychology at North Carolina State University. Dr. Desmarais works on issues at the intersection of public health, community safety, and social justice. Her current research is focused on evidence-based practices for reducing detention rates, especially among people with behavioral health needs. She provides technical assistance, evaluation services, and consultation to behavioral health, criminal justice, and intelligence agencies on problems and solutions for implementation, policy, and practice. Dr. Desmarais has authored more than 130 peer-reviewed publications and has received more than $10 million in grants and contracts from foundations and government agencies including the National Institutes of Health, the National Institute of Justice, and the National Science Foundation.
Samantha A. Zottola, Ph.D. has been a Research Associate at Policy Research Associates, Inc. (PRA) since May of 2021. She is responsible for developing, managing, and disseminating research primarily focused on the criminal legal system. Dr. Zottola received her Master’s in Clinical Psychology from Cleveland State University in 2015. After graduating she worked as a Psychometrist at the Cuyahoga County Juvenile Court helping to conduct a variety of court-ordered evaluations. Dr. Zottola received her PhD in Psychology from North Carolina State University in 2020. Her dissertation research focused on evidence-based practices for reducing jail populations and improving mental health screening in jails. Prior to joining PRA, Dr. Zottola worked as a postdoctoral research scholar with the Center for Family and Community Engagement at North Carolina State University. Dr. Zottola has authored several peer-reviewed publications in journals including Criminal Justice and Behavior and Psychiatric Services.
Learning Objectives
At the end of this webinar, participants will be able to…
  • Identify 3 or more pretrial risk assessment instruments, including their content and approach.
  • Describe the state of the research on the predictive validity of pretrial risk assessment instruments.
  • Discuss the context in which pretrial risk assessment instruments are being implemented, including considerations for practice and policy.

1 Sponsorship: The Global Institute of Forensic Research, Inc is approved by the American Psychological Association, National Board of Certified Counselors, National Association of Alcohol and Drug Abuse Counselors, and Canadian Psychological Association to sponsor continuing education trainings. The American Nurses Credentialing Center accepts Continuing Education Credit sponsored by the American Psychological Association. The Global Institute of Forensic Research, Inc (provider #1371) is also approved as a provider for social work continuing education by the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB), through the Approved Continuing Education (ACE) program. ACE provider approval period: 6/8/2022-6/8/2025. Social workers should contact their regulatory board to determine course approval. The Global Institute of Forensic Research, Inc maintains responsibility for this program and its contents.
2 Refund/Cancellation Policy: If you wish to request a refund on account of technical difficulties, please contact [email protected].
3 Commercial Supports: The Global Institute of Forensic Research, Inc reports no conflicts of interest in the development and sponsorship of this training. The Global Institute of Forensic Research, Inc receives no commercial support for its Continuing Education programs or from its presenters.

Note 1: The CPA's approval of an individual, group, or organization as a CE Sponsor or Provider is restricted to the activities described in the approved application or annual report form. The CPA's approval does not extend to any other CE activity the Sponsor or Provider might offer. In granting its approval, the CPA assumes no legal or financial obligations to Sponsors, Providers, or to those individuals who might participate in a Sponsor or Provider's CE activities or programs. Further, responsibility for the content, provision, and delivery of any CE activity approved by the CPA remains that of the CE Sponsor or Provider. The CPA disclaims all legal liability associated with the content, provision, and delivery of the approved CE activity.