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In this Sept. 4 file photo, John Bishop, right, senior architectural manager for Farnsworth Group, gives McLean County Public Building Commission members a tour of a cell block in the jail expansion under construction at the McLean County Law and Justice Center in downtown Bloomington. A large recreation area that includes natural sunlight is at the end of the block. The new facility is expected to be housing prisoners by early December.

BLOOMINGTON — The majority of defendants screened for release from custody before trial did not commit a new offense or fail to appear in court while their cases were pending, according to a study reviewed Wednesday by the McLean County Criminal Justice Coordinating Council.

The data compiled by the Stevenson Center for Community and Economic Development at Illinois State University examined 3,488 public safety assessments for defendants facing charges in 2016 and 2017 McLean County.

About 90 percent of those screened using a risk-based assessment tool succeeded on pretrial release, according to the report. The assessment scores a defendant's risk for release based on nine factors that are included in a report provided to the judge who determines the terms of release.

McLean is one of three Illinois counties that has used the assessment since January 2016 under a pilot program with the Illinois Administrative Office of Courts. 

The data show that defendants who score highest on the risk scale have the greater risk of failure on pretrial release, said McLean County pretrial coordinator Sarjeel Rizvi.

Fifty-five percent of the 3,488 defendants were released while 38 percent were detained on substantial bonds set by judges based on information in the assessments. The remaining 7 percent were released on specific pretrial conditions ranging from low-level monitoring to high-level supervision by court services.

The Stevenson Center also updated the CJCC on usage of the county jail for various levels of offenders. The county's efforts to use jail resources primarily for housing those who are the highest risk to public safety is paying off, according to Frank Beck, director of the Stevenson Center.

The jailed recorded 3,087 bed-days — a measure of inmates' overnight stays in the jail — for those charged with misdemeanors in the 12 months ending with September 2018, its lowest level since 2002, said Beck. 

"You have busted the curve," Beck told the CJCC.

An initiative undertaken in 2009 to reduce the jail population and the costs for housing inmates outside the county has been successful, said the ISU researcher.

The CJCC is a consortium of community members, attorneys and criminal justice officials. The group encourages collaboration between criminal justice agencies and works to address issues such as recidivism, public safety and a fair and efficient justice system.

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Contact Edith Brady-Lunny at (309) 820-3276. Follow her on Twitter: @pg_blunny

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McLean County Courts Reporter

McLean County courts reporter for The Pantagraph.

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