Pretrial risk assessment tools are embedded in the pretrial process in different ways, depending on jurisdiction. And most people who are judged by pretrial tools aren’t aware of how a risk assessment might be part of the decision a judge or magistrate makes about their pretrial liberty, supervision or incarceration.

Experience one iteration of the Public Safety Assessment (PSA) as it has been integrated into New Jersey’s criminal legal pretrial proceedings, through our simulator below.

You can walk through each aspect of the pretrial process and choose options that will generate a PSA score and a pretrial outcome.

You can do the simulator multiple times to see how multiple different factors and charges might influence the recommendation of the tool. Use pen and paper to write down the different factors to see how they influence the recommendation the PSA makes.

A risk assessment isn’t the end of the story. After you get your score, scroll down to learn what might happen next.

Thank you for trying the risk assessment simulator. We hope that this tool begins to show you that different factors that might be a part of an accused person’s life – for example:

  • previous arrests in a world that over-polices Black and Brown people
  • a young person’s age
  • previous convictions (that might have been pled because of previous pretrial incarcerations/unaffordable bail)
  • or time spent in jail 

can unfairly influence the risk score and recommendation that comes out of a commonly used risk assessment.  Understanding how factors correlated with “risk” are actually correlated with the biased way criminal “justice” is deployed nationwide can help communities confront risk assessment as a part of decarceration organizing and campaigns.

In New Jersey, after the risk assessment is run by a pretrial decision-maker, a judge or magistrate will take the scores that you receive and apply them to a decision-making framework – a policy document that translates the scores you get to recommended levels of release, supervision, or incarceration.

The State of New Jersey passed a law expanding quick pretrial release to thousands of people, and negotiated a decision-making framework1New Jersey Pretrial Release Recommendation Decision Making Framework, March 2018 for folks with higher risk levels, or higher charges.

But in other communities using the Arnold Ventures’ Public Safety Assessment, you might find that instead of a traditional decision-making framework and matrix (learn more about them in the Outputs: Risk Score section), the jurisdiction uses a “decision framework”2Arnold Ventures: Public Safety Assessment: Guide to the Pretrial Decision Framework. Note: accessing some documents may require setting up an account at Arnold Venture’s PSA Pretrial site and a “release matrix”3Arnold Ventures: Public Safety Assessment: Guide to the Release Conditions Matrix“. Note: accessing this document may require setting up an account at Arnold Venture’s PSA Pretrial site.

These “decision frameworks” do not recommend detention, but rather recommend levels of supervision and release at different points in the arrest and pretrial process. The “release matrix” helps pretrial decision-makers apply the different scores to different supposed levels of supervision that do not include detention, even though judges and magistrates might still recommend detention or use a money bail to ensure detention, whatever the decision framework and release matrix say.

You can learn more about decision-making frameworks and how judges and magistrates use them on our “Outputs: Risk Score” page. Or, you can read more about negotiated decision-making frameworks and release matrices in Section 2, page 25 and Appendix #3 of Community Justice Exchange’s organizing guide, “Confronting Pretrial Risk Assessment Tools in Decarceration Campaigns”.