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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Early Criminal Defense Yields Large Reductions in Pre-Trial Detention

  • Author(s): Yarmosky, Alena
  • et al.

In October 2017, the San Francisco Public Defender’s Office piloted the Pre-Trial Release Unit (PRU) to enhance access to pre-arraignment legal representation for indigent arrestees. Using data provided by the Office, this study finds the pilot program doubled the likelihood of release at arraignment – from 14% to 28% for arrestees who received arrest-responsive interventions from the PRU. The intervention is projected to save approximately 11,200 jail bed-days per year at an annual cost of approximately $335,000. Furthermore, the PRU’s efforts to advocate for the dismissal of parole holds reduced pre-trial incarceration by 44%, or an average of 9.5 days, among eligible parolees who were held in custody for violation of their parole orders.

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