Pretrial Justice Institute
200 East Pratt Street, Suite 4100
Baltimore, MD 21202

(667) 281-9141

The Case Against Pretrial Risk Assessments

How pretrial risk assessment instruments fail to live up to their claims and don't accurately predict how people will behave when released pretrial.


The Pretrial Justice Institute's opposition to risk assessment instruments (RAIs) in 2020 was primarily driven by our organization’s commitment to antiracism and the recognition that these tools fail to adequately address the biases inherent in the system. This report goes more deeply into the research and thinking behind RAIs, and the inability of the tools to create equitable outcomes. Key takeaways include:

  • Pretrial risk assessment instruments (RAIs) are constructed from biased data, so the RAIs perpetuate racism.

  • RAIs are not able to accurately predict whether someone will flee prosecution or commit a violent crime.

  • RAIs label people as “risky” even when their odds of success are high.

  • RAI scores inform conditions of release, but there is no proven connection between RAI scores, specific conditions, and pretrial success.

To transform pretrial justice and prioritize antiracism, a radical reconstruction is needed. The report calls on jurisdictions to move away from the use of RAIs and forge a new path that upholds the principles of pretrial liberty and the presumption of innocence without perpetuating racism.