There are many different pretrial RATs in use across the country – some were locally developed, and some were created by independent nonprofits or businesses and adopted by jurisdictions.

The most common tools in use for pretrial decision-making, according to our research, are listed below. Learn more about these tools and where they are implemented by downloading our database.

Public Safety Assessment (PSA)

The Public Safety Assessment (PSA)1Laura and John Arnold Foundation: Public Safety Assessment: About was developed in 2013 by the Laura and John Arnold Foundation, now called Arnold Ventures. The PSA’s designers used a national dataset of pretrial records to create a “universal” risk assessment2Laura and John Arnold Foundation: Developing a National Model for Pretrial Risk Assessment, usable in any jurisdiction and free to implement.

PSA factors:3Laura and John Arnold Foundation: Public Safety Assessment: Risk Factors and Formula

  • Age at current arrest
  • Current violent offense
  • Pending charge at the time of arrest
  • Prior misdemeanor conviction
  • Prior felony conviction
  • Prior violent conviction
  • Prior failure to appear in the past two years
  • Prior failure to appear older than two years
  • Prior sentence to incarceration

The PSA produces two separate scores using distinct sets of scales and weights: one for Failure to Appear and one for New Criminal Activity. Each scale produces a score from 1-6. The PSA also flags for New Violent Criminal Activity using its own set of scale and weights.

The PSA does not link specific scores to specific risk levels, but many jurisdictions use a decision-making framework to translate scores into pretrial decision recommendations. For instance, a score of 5 or 6 would be considered “high risk” in many jurisdictions, and the decision-making framework might recommend electronic monitoring or intensive supervision.

The PSA does not require a pretrial services agency to conduct an interview with the accused person. Instead, it relies on criminal history data that can be found in commonly used criminal legal databases.

Our research found the PSA in use in at least 5 entire states and 59 counties across 20 other states.

Explore the PSA as it is implemented in New Jersey through our simulator.

Ohio Risk Assessment System-Pretrial Assessment Tool (ORAS-PAT)

The Ohio Risk Assessment System4Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction: Ohio Risk Assessment System was developed in 2006 as a collaborative effort between the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation & Correction and the University of Cincinnati Center for Criminal Justice Research, and was implemented in 2011. There are currently 10 different tools in the Ohio Risk Assessment System, and each tool evaluates predicted risk at a different decision point in the criminal legal process, from pretrial through sentencing.  The ORAS-PAT was designed in 2009 for the pretrial process.

ORAS-PAT factors:5ORAS-PAT: The Creation and Validation of the Ohio Risk Assessment System (ORAS), Edward Latessa, Paula Smith, Richard Lemke, Matthew Makarios, and Christopher Lowenkamp, University of Cincinnati

  • Age at first arrest
  • Number of failure to appear warrants in the past 24 months
  • Three or more prior jail incarcerations
  • Employed at the time of arrest
  • Residential stability
  • Illegal drug use during the past six months
  • Severe drug use problem

ORAS-PAT creates a single risk score, and separates scores into low, moderate, and high risk levels on a range of 0-9. The ORAS-PAT includes an interview and review of the defendant’s file.

Our research found ORAS-PAT in use in 5 entire states and 48 counties across 8 other states.

Virginia Pretrial Risk Assessment Instrument (VPRAI)

The Virginia Pretrial Risk Assessment Instrument (VPRAI)6Marie VanNostrand: Assessing Risk Among Pretrial Defendants in Virginia: The Virginia Pretrial Risk Assessment Instrument, Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services was developed by the Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services.  It was phased in from 2003 to 2004, and implemented in all pretrial service agencies in Virginia by January 2005.7Kenneth Rose: A “New Norm” For Pretrial Justice in the Commonwealth of Virginia Pretrial Risk-based Decision Making Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services. In 2009, Luminosity, Inc. led the first major revalidation and revision8VPRAI: Pretrial Risk Assessment in Virginia, Marie VanNostrand and Kenneth J. Rose, Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services and Virginia Community Criminal Justice Association. Research by Luminosity, Inc. of the VPRAI.  This version of the VPRAI is still in use in many counties throughout the country, though Virginia itself moved to the VPRAI-R in 2016, described below. The VPRAI was the first research-based statewide pretrial risk assessment in the United States.9Kenneth Rose: A “New Norm” For Pretrial Justice in the Commonwealth of Virginia Pretrial Risk-based Decision Making Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services

VPRAI factors:10VPRAI: Pretrial Risk Assessment in Virginia, Marie VanNostrand and Kenneth J. Rose, Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services and Virginia Community Criminal Justice Association. Research by Luminosity, Inc.

  • Charge type
  • Pending charge
  • Criminal history
  • Two or more FTA
  • Two or more violent convictions
  • Lived at current residence less than one year
  • Unemployed at time of arrest
  • History of drug abuse

Scores range from 0-9 and are then assigned to five risk levels: low, below average, average, above average, and high. Scores produce a combined risk of failure to appear and rearrest. The VPRAI uses an interview and pretrial investigations to gather information about the accused.

Our research found VPRAI in use in at least 43 counties across 11 states.

Virginia Pretrial Risk Assessment Instrument-Revised (VPRAI-R)

The VPRAI has been updated several times. The fully revised VPRAI-R11VPRAI-R: Virginia Pretrial Risk Assessment Instrument Instruction Manual – Version 4.3, Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services was launched in 2016 with slight modifications from the original in factors and scoring, which the developers argue make the tool “free from race and gender predictive bias.”12Mona J.E. Danner, Marie VanNostrand, and Lisa M. Spruance Race and Gender Neutral Pretrial Risk Assessment Release Recommendations, and Supervision: VPRAI and Praxis Revised, Luminosity, Inc

VPRAI-R factors:13VPRAI-R: Virginia Pretrial Risk Assessment Instrument Instruction Manual – Version 4.3, Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services

  • Active community supervision
  • Charge is felony drug, theft, or fraud
  • Pending charge
  • Criminal history
  • Two or more FTA
  • Two or more violent convictions
  • Unemployed at the time of arrest
  • History of drug abuse

Like the VPRAI, VPRAI-R uses an interview and pretrial investigation. Scores range from 0-14 and produce risk levels 1 to 6.

Our research found VPRAI-R in use in all 33 pretrial service agencies in Virginia, which together serve 75% of the state localities and cover 90% of the state population.14Virginia State Crime Commission: Pre-Trial Process: November 2018 The VPRAI-R is also in use in at least 16 counties across 7 other states as well.

Correctional Offender Management Profiling for Alternative Sanctions (COMPAS)

COMPAS15Northpointe: Practitioners Guide to COMPAS is sold as a risk-need assessment tool, and was designed by Northpointe, Inc., now Equivant, in 1998. It is used in some pretrial settings, as well as other points in the criminal legal process. Both the full COMPAS tool and the pretrial release component are outlined below.

The full set of COMPAS factors,16Sample COMPAS Risk Assessment COMPAS “CORE” as found in ProPublica’s research of the tool, are based on 137 total questions, with sub-scales in the following 15 areas:

  • Current charges (6 questions)
  • Criminal history (18 questions)
  • Non-compliance (6 questions)
  • Family criminality (8 questions)
  • Peers (6 questions)
  • Substance abuse (9 questions)
  • Residence/Stability (11 questions)
  • Social environment (6 questions)
  • Education (9 questions)
  • Vocation (Work) (15 questions)
  • Leisure/Recreation (8 questions)
  • Social isolation (9 questions)
  • Criminal Personality (9 questions)
  • Anger (6 questions)
  • Criminal Attitudes (11 questions)

COMPAS includes a Pretrial Release Risk Scale (PRRS) and a more recently-modified PRRS-II that focuses solely on pretrial outcomes of failure to appear and new felony arrest amongst those on pretrial release.17Equivant, Northpointe, Inc: Practitioners Guide to COMPAS Core18Standford Law School Policy Lab: Risk Assessment Factsheet: Correctional Offender Management Profiling for Alternative Sanctions (COMPAS) Pretrial Release Risk Scale – II (PRRS-II)

PRRS-II risk factors include:

  • Felony top charge
  • Pending case
  • Prior failure to appear
  • Prior arrest on bail
  • Prior jail sentence
  • Drug abuse history
  • Employment status
  • Length of residence

Our research found COMPAS in some form in use in at least 11 jurisdictions across 4 states.