Twenty-seven programs responded to OPPAGA’s survey requesting information regarding 2020 operations and reported serving over 68,000 defendants. Pretrial release programs reported budgets ranging from $71,009 in Flagler County to $8 million in Broward County. None of the pretrial release programs responding to the survey reported receiving state general revenue funds and all 27 reported receiving county funds; six programs reported receiving grants. Programs reported gathering defendant information, such as criminal history and other demographics, to screen potential participants. In 2020, programs that screened defendants reported that staff conducted almost 140,000 interviews. Seventeen programs also reported using risk assessments during the screening process.
To remain on pretrial release, defendants must comply with all court-ordered conditions until the final disposition of their case. Warrants for their arrest can be issued if defendants do not comply with these conditions, fail to appear for a court appearance, or commit a crime. Twenty-one pretrial release programs reported a rate of 6% or less for participants failing to appear in court. Pretrial release programs reported varying numbers of defendant arrests. For most pre-trial release programs, the rate of arrests for participants was under 20%.
Pretrial release program costs can be compared to the cost of keeping defendants in jail. Many programs reported that jail costs exceeded $100/day, which are significantly higher than pretrial release program costs. For example, the Leon County program estimated that the program diverted an estimated 378,505 inmate days from the detention facility, which resulted in a daily savings of $82.57 or an annual savings of $31.2 million. As another example, the Pinellas County program served 4,919 defendants in 2020. At $122 per day, it would cost $4.2 million to keep those defendants in jail for one week, which exceeds the total 2020 pretrial release program budget of $3.6 million.
Statute requires each pretrial release program to prepare a weekly register, displaying descriptive information about the defendants released through the program, and an annual report. Pretrial release programs generally complied with these statutory requirements, as 26 programs reported maintaining the weekly register, and 28 programs provided OPPAGA with an annual report.