Academic Publications

Determining Racial Equity in Pretrial Risk Assessment

Howard Henderson | Jack Sevil | Danielle Lessard | David Rembert


This research brief examined racial equity in a pretrial risk assessment tool called the Pre-Trial Release Risk Assessment (PTRA) used in an East Coast County. The PTRA overall accurately predicted pretrial supervision completion and failure for the sample. However, Black defendants scored higher on the PTRA and were more likely to be removed from supervision than White defendants. Importantly though, the PTRA did not produce disproportionate false positive or false negative predictions for either racial group. The findings suggest the tool predicts equally well for Black and White defendants, but Black defendants still face disparities in scoring and supervision outcomes.

Key Takeaways

  • The tool accurately predicted supervision outcomes overall.
  • Black defendants were more likely to be removed from supervision despite no differences in false classification rates.
  • Results indicate the need to enhance the tool and further examine factors driving different pretrial outcomes.
  • More research warranted on understanding and addressing racial disparities in risk tools.