Early Criminal Defense Yields Large Reductions in Pre-Trial Detention

CA Policy Lab logoIn October 2017, the San Francisco Public Defender’s Office piloted the Pre-Trial Release Unit (PRU) to enhance access to pre-arraignment legal representation for indigent arrestees. Using data provided by the office, the California Policy Lab conducted a study and published this brief that found the pilot program doubled the likelihood of release at arraignment, going from 14 percent to 28 percent for arrestees who received arrest-responsive interventions from the PRU. The intervention is projected to save approximately 11,200 jail bed-days per year at an annual cost of approximately $335,000. Furthermore, the PRU’s efforts to advocate for the dismissal of parole holds reduced pre-trial incarceration by 44 percent, or an average of 9.5 days, among eligible parolees who were held in custody for violation of their parole orders.