A pretrial program, like any other program, should have a vision of what it seeks to accomplish and a well-articulated mission. In a pretrial program like many other programs, with the day-to-day challenges it is easy to lose focus on what the program is designed to accomplish. Having vision, value and mission statements can help the program keep its focus. These statements should reflect national standards on pretrial program practices as well as statutory and court rule language.
Standards related to pretrial release and pretrial services which are based on pretrial legal principles have been issued by the American Bar Association and the National Association of Pretrial Services Agencies. Standards for pretrial release were first established and published by the American Bar Association (ABA) in 1968. In 1978, the National Association of Pretrial Services Agencies (NAPSA) received a grant from the U.S. Department of Justice to develop national professional standards for what was still a new field. The third edition of the NAPSA standards (2004) built upon the 1978 standards (which were reissued by NAPSA as a second edition in 1998) and the third edition of the ABA Standards on Pretrial Release (2007).
The ABA and NAPSA standards specify several core services that pretrial services programs should provide. Chief among these standards is the use of the least restrictive conditions of release that reasonably will assure the defendant’s appearance in court and protect public safety; and that financial bond should be used only when no other condition reasonably will assure the defendant’s return to court, and at an amount that is within the ability of the defendant to post. These standards strongly encourage the use of non-financial release, the use of financial release only when non-financial options are not sufficient to ensure appearance, and the abolition of commercial surety bail. ualitative reports from practitioners within the field suggest that the standards are generally unknown to the judiciary, defense attorneys and prosecutors, and that little has been done to effectively promulgate these important and useful guidelines.
NAPSA also publishes standards for pretrial diversion and intervention.