As part of the Budget Act of 2019, the Legislature allocated $75 million to the Judicial Council to fund the implementation, operation, and evaluation of programs or efforts related to pretrial decision making.
Thirty-one applications were received by the Judicial Council and 16 court programs were recommended and approved for the pilot program funding. As a result the Superior Court of Tulare County received a grant of nearly $3.8 million to expand its pretrial services.
In 2015, the Tulare County Probation Department, in collaboration with the Superior Court of Tulare County, implemented a pretrial supervision pilot program. In 2016, the program was expanded to include all pretrial courts with individuals released on various levels of supervision to include the use of electronic monitoring, global positioning and transdermal alcohol devices.
In June of 2018, the Probation Department, in collaboration with the Superior Court of Tulare County, implemented the Public Safety Assessment (PSA), an evidence based pretrial risk assessment tool as part of an overall effort to promote safety and equality within its criminal justice system. This data-driven tool provides objective information for judges to consider along with information presented by the prosecution and defense counsel when deciding whether to release or detain a defendant prior to trial.
The grant of nearly $3.8 million will enable the expansion of pretrial services, under existing law, in Tulare County by funding one Court Commissioner and 11 Deputy Probation Officers. The funding further supports the advancement of technology which will enhance communication across departments for a more efficient resolution of pretrial matters. Upon full implementation of the pilot program, the Probation Department intends to expand pre-arraignment assessment services to include all individuals booked and retained in custody who are eligible for bail. These individuals will be assessed within 24 hours of arrest by the Probation Department with a court magistrate available seven days a week to consider pre-arraignment releases on weekends, evenings and holidays.
“A commitment to pretrial justice is a core function of our courts and the daily decisions regarding the detention of pretrial defendants are among the most important we make,” said Presiding Judge Brett Alldredge. “Indeed, in a system where over 90 percent of all criminal cases are resolved prior to trial, many expert observers have written, ‘Informed pretrial justice decisions determine everything.’
“This unprecedented grant was hard-earned by a team composed under the superb leadership of Tulare County Superior Court Executive Officer Stephanie Cameron and Chief Probation Officer Michelle Bonwell. It is recognition of the commitment made by our court years ago to a system that promotes judicial detention decisions based on assessed risk as opposed to one where individuals may or may not be able to purchase their pretrial freedom based on their relative wealth. It also reflects the cumulative vision and courage of former Court Executive Officer LaRayne Cleek and former Chief Probation Officers Janet Honadle and Christie Myer that promote the goals of our Community Corrections Partnership of safe communities and equality under the law.
“I am fully confident that we are up to the challenge of continuing to earn the confidence reposed in us by the Judicial Council of California with the award of this pretrial justice grant.”