New rules may change the way a judge sets bond

New rules may change the way a judge sets bond
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LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - This week, WAVE 3 News noticed changes to the Kentucky Pretrial Services risk assessments that help judges set bond for criminal defendants.

The changes came just a week ago, after Kentucky Pretrial Services officials met with more than a dozen judges around the state. Some crimes previously not listed in a violent category before, now are.

Kentucky Pretrial Services Executive Officer Tara Blair says Kentucky has led the way on justice reform.

Back in 1976, the state got rid of the bail bondsman system and created Pretrial Services, which helps judges makes the best decision possible when it comes bond for every person charged. The final decision belongs to the judge but the risk assessments have become a very valuable tool for them.

Besides justice reform, the agency also has the task of trying to keep communities safe.

The risk assessment is the report a judge gets on every criminal defendant's history. It measures three things: failure to appear, likelihood of re-arrest pending trial, and a violence flag.

"It's a scale that shows if someone is maybe an elevated risk for violence," Blair explained.

Wednesday, WAVE 3 News observed Judge Sean Delahanty questioning the risk assessment on Christopher Sindelar, 32.

Sindelar was charged with attempted murder, kidnapping and assault of a woman. He was listed as a moderate risk on the assessment.

The judge read from his criminal file, "Here's another violation of an EPO and here's another conviction for a violation of an EPO."

Delahanty determined Sindelar's past Emergency Protective Order (EPO) violations as one of the new changes for the risk assessment violence flag. He said Sindelar should have a higher score. As a high risk, his bond was set at $100,000.

The reason for Sindelar's moderate risk assessment may have been because his January 26 crime could have pre-dated the new changes.

"A month ago, somebody that had a prior violation of a domestic violence order -- that wasn't counted or scored as part of that scale, but now it is," Blair told us.

Anytime there are changes to the risk assessment, they don't come easy. Changes have to be backed up by data.

"As long as we have the data that we can show statistically that factor or charge is predictive," Blair explained, "and we have data on that exact charge dating back to 2009, so we're able to look through our data and find a correlation between that specific charge and predictability."

Wanton endangerment in the second degree, and cruelty to animals are among the charges that also now get the violence flag.

Blair told us Pretrial Services continues to monitor everything the agency does, even checking to make sure statistics continue to back up the changes that they've already made.

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