People who pose little risk are held in the New Orleans jail

Through the use of a research-based risk assessment tool, people arrested and accused of a felony are assessed for risk of failing to appear in court and of being re-arrested if released. Detention of defendants who are found to present low and low-moderate risk should be the carefully limited exception rather than the rule.10

Out of the 413 people in jail on February 2, 2017 who were assessed for risk and given a risk score, 183 (or roughly 44 percent) were found to present a low or low-moderate risk for re-arrest and failure to appear in court. This cohort represents 12 percent of the 1,543 people detained in jail, most of whom were held on a financial bail. While the remaining people held in jail may not have a risk score, the percentage above provides evidence that some portion of this group is likely to be low-risk as well, and therefore eligible for pretrial release. Overall, this suggests there is an opportunity to safely reduce the jail population by making release decisions based on risk, rather than a person’s ability to pay a money bond. 

Figure 3