Milwaukee Evidence Based Pretrial Release System Takes A Hit


It took 10 days for Milwaukee County’s new pretrial release system for criminal defendants to draw unwanted attention, says the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Derrick Byrd, 21, charged with felony murder in a fatal robbery, was released without posting a cash bail. It wasn’t a mistake. Commissioner Kevin Costello followed the recommendation of Justice 2000, the agency contracted to assess tens of thousands of people brought to jail. It’s part of “evidence-based decision making” meant to bring more effective management of law enforcement and justice system resources.

Justice 2000 began using the new assessment tool Jan. 17 after years of research and development. Missing among the many factors considered in assessing risk and recommending bail or conditions of pretrial release is “public reaction.” In Byrd’s case, prosecutors had asked for $150,000 cash bail. They appealed Costello’s ruling to Crcuit Judge David Borowski, who set a $50,000 bail hours after Byrd left jail. “No victim is ever going to accept an evidence-based decision that conflicts with their emotion-based decision” about bail, said Chief Judge Jeffrey Kremers said. “That’s valid, but as a system we can’t make decisions totally emotion-based, though it always plays some role.”

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