The Board of Supervisors has authorized an agreement between the Ventura County Superior Court and the Ventura County Probation Agency to continue the Pretrial Risk Assessment and Monitoring Services program.
The Superior Court was awarded more than $3 million in state funding as part of a pretrial pilot program between superior courts and their probation agencies. It will provide the Probation Agency $3.3 million to expand and enhance the current Pretrial Risk Assessment and Monitoring Services (PRAMS) program.
The PRAMS program provides the Court with additional alternatives to incarceration including electronic monitoring, GPS tracking, alcohol monitoring and other pretrial monitoring options. The program uses an evidence-based assessment tool to evaluate a defendant’s likelihood of appearing in court or reoffending.
By giving the Court reliable and objective information at a defendant’s arraignment hearing, the judicial officer can consider appropriate release options for felony non-prison eligible offenders. This reduces the local jail population by freeing beds for higher risk defendants while upholding public safety.
“This funding will allow us to significantly expand our program and services,” said Chief Probation Officer Mark Varela. “Currently the program operates five days a week from 7 a.m. until 6 p.m. Now we will be able to operate seven days a week for 12 hours a day. We’ll have Deputy Probation Officers stationed in the booking area of the jail and they will have more time to conduct assessments and other pretrial investigative work.”
The PRAMS program has been operating for five years and the results have been positive. To date, 90% of the defendants who were released remained arrest-free; and 82% of the defendants appeared for all their court hearings through the final dispositions of their cases.
“There are many benefits to monitoring over incarceration,” said Varela. “Families are not displaced, and defendants can maintain their employment during the pretrial process. And, as a result, were have been able to meet our goal of reducing the local jail population and making space available for higher risk defendants.”