Arnold Foundation Risk Assessment tool is putting Public Safety at Risk

August 26, 2016


Researchers from the Arnold Foundation believe "that substance abuse was not one of the top nine factors that contributed to a defendant's failure to appear in court or to their likelihood of committing crimes while free."


In my experience drug use correlates with the majority of crimes committed. Whether that be position of drugs, theft or violent crimes. In addition I would say the majority of the defendants that fail to appear and have to be surrendered back to jail by a bondsman have an addiction. Drugs impair a persons ability to be responsible and the urge to use is as powerful as the desire to eat food.


The Arnold Foundation researchers believe it is too time consuming to interview a defendant about drug use and that even if they do the defendant will not answer truthfully. Drug use can be determined by previous arrest as well as physical appearance and condition. This is not to assume the person is guilty of a crime. This is to say if there is strong suspicion or information of drug use then the Court should consider the person is more likely to fail to appear or commit new crimes if released.


The Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections developed a Risk Assessment Instrument that 2 of the 7 factors consider recent and severe drug abuse. The Cuyahoga County bond commissioners then use the score to recommend bail amounts to judges. Bail is the safeguard for adjudicating a case. When bail bondsmen talk to family of people in jail because of an addiction there is usually no urgency to have the person bonded out. 


Many families are relieved the person is safe and will like for them to detox before even considering to have them released. The conversations after 3 days, are the defendant expressing regret, promising to get help, and pleading that the bond is reasonable. Families that have a heart to heart and faith to get their loved one help will post bond.


Some defendants do seek help but many especially those who have to report to pretrial services for drug testing will fail to comply and then fail to appear. At least in Ohio the bail bondsmen will be there to surrender the defendant and safeguard the adjudication of the case. I hope soon we come up with a plan to not further incarcerate defendants when they relapse and focus on medication that helps addiction as well as life coaching.




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