The Public Safety Assessment (PSA), a tool designed to measure someone’s risk of missing future court hearings or committing a new crime if released, attempts to predict which people are at an especially high risk of committing violent crimes if released. However, in Cook County, Illinois, 99% of defendants deemed ‘high risk’ for pretrial violence don’t reoffend.
PSA scores are one of many factors judges use in deciding someone’s fate, but they carry significant weight: Nearly three-quarters of defendants categorized as low risk will be released immediately after their hearings, sometimes with an order to check in regularly with pretrial services officers. But nearly all considered high risk will be sent to Cook County Jail, where they will either have to make bail, which averages about $6,000, or sit in jail for weeks, months, or even years while they wait for their cases to finish. About a third of “high risk” defendants will be denied any chance at bail.