pretrial detention | Definition

Doc's CJ Glossary by Adam J. McKee


Course: Introduction

Pretrial detention means detaining an accused person in jail prior to trial because they did not post bail, or because they are a flight risk or pose a risk to the community.

Pretrial detention refers to the practice of detaining an accused person in jail prior to their trial. This is typically done because the person has not posted bail, but it can also be because they are considered a flight risk or pose a danger to the community. In the United States, pretrial detention is a common practice, with many people being held in jail for months or even years before their trial.

The purpose of the detention is to ensure that defendants appear in court for their trial and to protect the community from those who may pose a danger. However, there are concerns that it can be overly punitive, particularly for those who are unable to afford bail. Pretrial detention can also have negative consequences for defendants, including the loss of their job, housing, and contact with their families and community.

In recent years, there has been a growing movement to reform the pretrial detention system. Many advocates argue that pretrial detention should be used sparingly and only in cases where there is a clear risk of flight or danger to the community. Some states have implemented bail reform measures, such as the use of risk assessments to determine whether a defendant should be held in jail or released on bail.

The use of pretrial detention has also been linked to racial and economic disparities in the criminal justice system. Studies have shown that people of color and those from low-income communities are more likely to be held in jail prior to their trial. This has led to calls for greater accountability and transparency in the pretrial detention system.

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Last Modified: 04/07/2023


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