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Polk County Begins Pretrial Public Safety Assessment

January 16, 2018

News Release

January 16, 2018

Contact: Steve Davis, Court Communications Director, (515)725-8058 or

Polk County Begins Pretrial Public Safety Assessment

Des Moines, January 16, 2018—  Polk County district courts today began using the Public Safety Assessment (PSA), a pretrial risk assessment, in all pretrial hearings. The PSA assists judges in determining whether to detain or release a defendant before trial.

Using evidence-based risk factors, the PSA determines the likelihood that a defendant who is released before his or her trial date will fail to return for a future court hearing, commit a criminal act, or commit a violent crime upon release. The assessment also recommends supervisory measures that the presiding judge can consider before releasing a defendant before trial. However, the final decision regarding release or detention always lies with the judge. The PSA is intended to serve as a resource for consideration, rather than a replacement for judicial discretion.

The PSA was developed by the Laura and John Arnold Foundation after researchers analyzed more than 1.5 million cases from more than 300 U.S. jurisdictions. Researchers tested each risk factor, and the nine predictive factors considered by the PSA are all gender- and race-neutral. 

"The PSA will provide our judges with statistical information in order to fairly balance the defendant's interest in release against the risk the defendant will fail to appear for court or commit an offense while the case is pending,” Fifth Judicial District Chief Judge Arthur Gamble said. “Judges are not bound by the PSA recommendation and will continue to exercise independent judgment. But the use of a validated risk assessment tool along with the opportunity for a level of supervision on pretrial release commensurate with the risk should serve to reduce failure to appear and improve public safety."

Polk County’s use of the PSA in pretrial hearings is the result of a statewide collaboration between the Iowa Judicial Branch, the Iowa Department of Corrections, the local Judicial District Department of Correctional Services, the State Public Defender, and the County Attorney’s Association. More Iowa courts will begin using the PSA in pretrial hearings in the near future.

The Director of the 5th Judicial District Department of Correctional Services Jerry Evans said, “Our ability to provide the courts with reliable data on which to base their decisions is very important to our department. The PSA will allow us to make recommendations to the Court that include the probability of whether someone will appear for future court hearings, commit another crime, or commit a crime of violence while on pretrial release. The PSA will allow judges to combine their own professional judgment with unbiased statistical calculations. This is a genuine upgrade from our present system.” 

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For More Information:

Contact: Steve Davis, Court Communications Director, (515)725-8058 or


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