HISTORY OF UNITED STATES PRETRIAL SERVICES
In 1966, the Bail Reform Act was enacted to assure the defendant’s appearance in court. It prevented unwarranted detention and eliminated the reliance on bail money as the sole determinate of pretrial release. The court is provided with three options:
- Release on personal recognizance or unsecured appearance bond, subject only to the condition that the person not commit a crime during the period of release;
- Release subject to the least restrictive further condition or combined conditions (non-financial as well as financial); or,
In 1974, Congress enacted the Speedy Trial Act. It authorized the Director of the Administrative Office of the United States Courts to establish “demonstration” Pretrial Service Agencies in ten judicial districts to help judicial officers make decisions concerning the conditions of pretrial release and to supervise and provide necessary services to persons released pending trial. The goal was to reduce the failure to appear rate, pretrial arrests and costly pretrial detentions.
In 1982, President Ronald Reagan signed the Pretrial Services Act. It authorized the expansion of Pretrial Services from the ten “demonstration” Pretrial Services Agencies to every federal judicial district, except the District of Columbia. It granted an 18-month evaluation period for each court to decide whether to establish separate Pretrial Services Offices or provide pretrial services through the Probation Office. Consequently, each Court chose the form of pretrial services that best met their needs by considering criminal caseloads and court locations. This expansion has situated Pretrial Services in a crucial place within the federal criminal justice process. Pretrial Services officers are able to provide to the Court two very important services: Investigation and Supervision. They are often the first court representatives the defendants encounter after their arrest with a mission to investigate and recommend to the court whether to release or detained the defendant. Through close communication with Court personnel, federal agencies, attorneys, and other law enforcement agencies, Pretrial Services officers deliver services which benefit the court, the community and the defendant. For more information, please visit History of Probation and Pretrial Services at the US Courts website.
The United States Pretrial Services Office for the Western District of Texas was established in 1988. It has evolved into the largest pretrial district in the country with offices established in Alpine, Austin, Del Rio, El Paso, Fort Hood, Midland, Pecos, San Antonio and Waco, Texas, which encompasses approximately 92,000 square miles. The main divisional office for the United States Pretrial Services Office is located in San Antonio, Texas.
The United States Pretrial Services Office for the Western District of Texas has released more defendants than any other United States Pretrial Services Office in the nation. Further, it also administrates one of the largest regional drug labs. The expansion of Pretrial Services to all districts marked a significant milestone for what is now the “Federal Probation and Pretrial Services System.”