April 23, 2014
Final Reports
San Mateo Courts - Civil Grand Jury

2002 Report:

Release on Own Recognizance Program

Summary | Background | Findings | Conclusions | Recommendations| Responses

Summary:

The Grand Jury in 2003 initiated a follow-up investigation to determine if the administrative and procedural restructuring of this program has improved the policies and procedures intended to assure court appearances in lieu of bail. The Grand Jury found that the Probation Department has not completed its evaluation and analysis of Release on Own Recognizance Program (OR) supervision practices. As a result, it cannot be determined if the program has implemented all the improvements recommended in a previous Grand Jury report.

In response to Grand Jury recommendations in 2001, the San Mateo County Superior Court appointed a Release on Own Recognizance Evaluation Committee. As a result of that evaluation the administrative responsibility for the OR Program was transferred from the San Mateo County Bar Association to the San Mateo County Probation Department Adult Division effective July 1, 2002. The OR Program was renamed Pretrial Services to more accurately reflect the work being done.

It is too soon to determine whether the Probation Department manages Pretrial Services more effectively than the Bar Association. There is no appreciable difference in the "Failed to Appear" rate since the program has been under the administration of the Probation Department.

Issue: Has the management restructuring and reorganization of the Release on Own Recognizance Program improved the program's effectiveness and remedied the issues surfaced by the Grand Jury in 2001?

Background:

In 2001 the Grand Jury reviewed the Release Own Recognizance (OR) Program administered by the San Mateo County Bar Association under contract with San Mateo County. The Grand Jury found that training of program supervisors was inadequate, operating procedures did not clearly define duties and did not adequately address the assessment of one's suitability for OR. The Grand Jury made recommendations regarding terms that should be included in the next contract effective July 2001. In response to the recommendations the San Mateo County Superior Court appointed an OR Evaluation Committee. The evaluation recommended responsibility for the OR Program be transferred from the San Mateo County Bar Association to the San Mateo County Probation Department Adult Division. The court concluded it would take a year to develop a thoughtful plan and actually complete the transition in a manner that would produce the most effective results. In order that OR services be managed without interruption during the administrative transition, the Superior Court also advised that the agreement with the Bar Association would continue to allow it to manage the program another year. When the Probation Department assumed responsibility for OR in July 2002, the program was renamed Pretrial Services to more accurately reflect the work being done. The San Mateo County Sheriff's Office was given the responsibility for jail classification and data collection for Pretrial Services.

In January 2003 the Grand Jury initiated an investigation to determine if the administrative and procedural restructuring of this program has improved the policies and procedures intended to assure court appearances in lieu of bail. The Grand Jury met with the Chief Probation Officer and the Director of Adult Supervision Services, as well as reviewed the Probation Department supervision guidelines for Pretrial Services in draft form. The following statistics were provided by the Sheriff's Office:

  • Volume of OR releases for the last two years under Bar Association administration

  • Volume of OR releases since Pretrial Services were assumed by the Probation Department

  • Number of those in the program that failed to appear in court for the last two years under the Bar Association administration

  • Number of those in the program that failed to appear in court since Pretrial Services were assumed by the Probation Department.
Findings:

In November 2002 the Probation Department formed a group to examine the Pretrial Services supervision practices. The Probation Department is developing a comprehensive policy and procedure manual with a goal to be completed by May 2003. Meanwhile the Probation Department advised that the court requested it to continue to use the same point scale to assess suitability for release on own recognizance as was used by the Bar Association.

In order to create a stronger supervision process for persons released on their own recognizance and improve appearance rate in court, the Probation Department has initiated a program that supervises those persons in much the same way as persons on probation. The Probation Department is providing all Pretrial Services Officers with 200 hours Peace Officer training within their first year of employment. As of February 2003, two-thirds of the staff had completed this training. Training is also being provided in domestic violence, street drug identification, working with mentally ill offenders, and advanced officer safety training in addition to in-house Probation/Pretrial Services Officers training.

Increased supervision of persons released on their own recognizance entails more physical visits with the defendants and less tolerance for violation by the individual of the guidelines surrounding their release. When managed under the Bar Association, persons failing to appear in court would be picked up sometime later by a program supervisor and brought to court. Under the Probation Department management a person violating the conditions of release or failing to appear in court is arrested and brought to jail.

The Probation Department has not yet developed the means to independently gather data that measures the program's performance and must rely on the Sheriff's Office for ad hoc reports. A process is being developed to identify and gather data to measure the program's success, as well as the accuracy and timeliness of its reports to the Court. The following statistics were obtained from two reports provided by the Sheriff's Office:

RELEASE ON OWN RECOGNIZANCE PROGRAM STATISTICS

 

Bar Association Management

 

Probation Department Management

 

FY 2000-2001

FY 2001-2002

July 2002 – February 24, 2003

Recommendations

Total

Avg/mo

Total

Avg/mo

Total

Avg/mo

# Total Cases

10,441

870

10,719

893

6,335

792

 

 

# Recommended for Release on OR

 

3,496

291

3,097

258

1,761

220

 

# Denied by Court

 

1,946

162

1,770

148

1,109

139

 

% of Those Recommended for OR & Denied by Court

 

55%

 

57%

 

63%

 

 

Releases

# Released*

 

1550

129

1327

111

652

82

 

% Total Defendants that were Released on OR

 

15%

 

12%

 

10%

 

 

% of Those Recommended for OR that were Released

 

44%

 

43%

 

37%

 

 

Failed to Appear

Failed to Appear in Court

 

213

18

184

15

93

12

 

% Released that Failed to Appear

 

14%

 

14%

 

14%

 

 

* The number released is derived mathematically (# Positive Recommendations less the # Denied by Court) on the chart.  Statistics provided by the Sheriff’s Office for those who failed to appear in court used a different number for releases per year.

 

Conclusions:

The Probation Department is still in the process of incorporating Pretrial Services into its vision, values, and goals. The focus has been on stabilizing existing services and upgrading training programs for officers while assimilating what was a privately run program into the County system.

Managing Pretrial Services similar to probation cases enhances the level of supervision over persons on the program. It is likely that due to the differences in program supervision levels and policy differences between the Bar Association and the Probation Department, statistics regarding failure to appear in court may not initially show an improvement.

The Sheriff's Office likely used two different sources to provide the statistical information requested. The number of releases per year was not consistent in the two reports. It is important that the Probation Department have a clear understanding on how data regarding their program is gathered in order to establish meaningful measurements that indicate progress over time.

Since the responsibility for managing Pretrial Services was assumed by the Probation Department, the average number of cases reviewed per month has lessened. A smaller percentage of cases are recommended for release on their own recognizance than when managed by the Bar Association, and the percentage recommended for release and denied by the court is greater.

It is too soon to determine whether the Probation Department manages Pretrial Services more effectively than the Bar Association based on statistical data. There is no appreciable difference in the "Failed to Appear" rate since the program has been under the administration of the Probation Department. Policy and procedures have not been completely defined. While fewer recommendations for release on own recognizance are being made by the Pretrial Services, more recommendations for release are being denied by the court, suggesting that better explanation of qualification criteria and documentation of practices need to be put in place by the Probation Department..


Recommendations:

  1. The Probation Department needs to meet its commitment to complete and implement the Pretrial Services policy and procedures by May 2003.

  2. The Probation Department needs to establish its own means of measurement that clearly tracks effectiveness of performance over time.

  3. The Probation Department needs to work with the courts to develop better qualification criteria that provides opportunity for the pretrial services officer to comment on the severity of the current crime and criminal history of the defendant in addition to the current numerical scale and point system when making a recommendation to release on own recognizance.

  4. The 2003-2004 Grand Jury should reassess the Pretrial Services program after the new procedures have been fully implemented.

Response
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