Restoring accountability in pretrial release: The Philadelphia pretrial release supervision experiments

John S. Goldkamp, Michael D. White

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


As drug arrests and jail overcrowding added pressure to increase pretrial release in localities during the 1980s and 1990s, the need to manage a larger and higher-risk pretrial population of defendants awaiting adjudication in the community became a high priority for justice agencies. In the late 1990s Philadelphia officials sought to discover the ingredients of a successful supervision strategy through four interlinked field experiments to provide an empirical basis for a major reform of the pretrial release system. The results of the linked randomized experiments question common assumptions about "supervision," its impact and effectiveness, about the underlying nature of the noncompliant defendant, and deterrence implications. The study emphasizes the importance of interpreting the findings in the context of implementation of the policy reform. Findings suggest that facilitative notification strategies wield little influence on defendant behavior and that deterrent aims are undermined by the system's failure to deliver consequences for defendant noncompliance during pretrial release. The most significant contribution of the article is its illustration of a major evidence-based policy reform undertaken by a major court system.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)143-181
Number of pages39
JournalJournal of Experimental Criminology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2006
Externally publishedYes


  • Field experiment
  • Pretrial misconduct
  • Pretrial release
  • Supervision

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Law


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