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Thurston County, Washington

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Thurston County Launches Pretrial Assessment to Improve Pretrial System

CONTACT:    Carrie Hennen, Pretrial Services Director, email at 

OLYMPIA – After more than four years of work on pretrial justice improvements, Thurston County announces the official launch of the Public Safety Assessment (PSA). The purpose of this work is to prioritize community well-being and safety, reduce bias, and ensure pretrial detention is reserved only for those who jeopardize public safety. The PSA will provide additional research-based information to judicial officers, prosecutors, and defense counsel to inform pretrial decisions. While judicial officers will continue to make all decisions regarding detention, release, and conditions of release, the PSA will serve as one more tool they can use to inform their decisions.

The PSA is being implemented as part of the Thurston County’s participation in the national Advancing Pretrial Policy and Research (APPR) initiative, a multi-year project to advance fair, just, effective pretrial justice nationwide. Justice experts, researchers, and local justice system members including Pretrial Services, Public Defense, the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, District and Superior Courts, Judges, the Sheriff’s Office, local law enforcement, and the Board of County Commissioners participated in this collaborative process. 

What does “pretrial” mean?

In the United States, everyone who is charged with a crime is presumed innocent. When a person is arrested and booked into jail, judicial officers consider many factors when deciding what, if any, conditions will be imposed while a person waits for a resolution of their case. Judicial officers must follow the United States Constitution, our state Constitution, and the Washington Court Rules. The U.S. Supreme Court says that during the pretrial period, personal liberty is the norm and detention before trial is the carefully limited exception.

What is the PSA?

The PSA is a nationally validated pretrial risk assessment tool used in jurisdictions across the country. Researchers at RTI International validated the tool on the Thurston County population to ensure it provides valid estimates of the likelihood of pretrial outcomes, specifically whether someone will appear in court, have a new arrest, or have a new violent arrest. The validation also shows there is no predictive bias based on race or gender.  

The PSA gives decision-makers information about how people with similar profiles to the person in front of them performed on pretrial release. The PSA does not make decisions. Judicial officers apply the law and consider evidence, such as a person’s criminal history, the nature of the current charge, the strength of the evidence against the person, and requests from the prosecutor and defense counsel when making pretrial decisions. Research suggests when criminal justice professionals use actuarial tools along with other factors, outcomes can improve. 

Who do we complete the PSA on?

Pretrial Services staff will complete the PSA on adults facing potential criminal charges who are booked into the Thurston County jail and coming before the court for a pretrial release decision.

Why are we using the PSA?

The PSA helps improve the transparency and consistency of pretrial decisions. The PSA has helped other jurisdictions achieve higher rates of release and lower their use of financial conditions, with no negative impact on crime or court appearance rates. 

What is next?

Moving forward, the county will evaluate local data and pretrial outcomes, including court appearance and no new arrest rates, to assess the impact of these changes and identify further opportunities for improvement in our pretrial system.

To learn more about Thurston County’s pretrial work and the APPR initiative, please visit: 


Pretrial Services
Press Release

Questions and inquiries regarding News Release content should be directed to the Thurston County Public Information Officer:  

Meghan Porter


Anna Rhoads