Mesa County officials this week accepted the prestigious Criminal Justice Innovations Award from the Association of Prosecuting Attorneys. The award was given for the evidence-based pretrial and bail and bond reforms implemented in Mesa County over the past three years. These reforms were developed by a pretrial committee consisting of judges, prosecutors, public and private defense attorneys, criminal justice practitioners from Mesa County Criminal Justice Services and law enforcement personnel from the Mesa County Sheriff’s Office.
This achievement award was given to Mesa County for the innovative and collaborative design of new bond guidelines and pretrial practices, including the implementation of an evidence-based risk assessment, and data-driven bond guidelines. The reforms have changed Mesa County’s bail system from a primarily money-based decision process to a primarily risk-based decision process. The Colorado Pretrial Assessment Tool is now used in Mesa County to assess each defendant who is arrested on new charges and booked into the jail. A risk profile is then generated from the assessment, which helps judges evaluate the defendant’s risk of being charged with a new crime or failure to appear in court if they are released on bail.
According to recent research, no correlation exists between posting money as a condition of bond and court appearance and public safety. Mesa County judges are now using the Colorado Pretrial Assessment Tool to help make bail and bond decisions. Since implementation of the bail and bond reforms, local data has shown that judges are setting bonds that result in the detention of more high-risk defendants and the release of lower-risk defendants.