The Hidden Costs of Pretrial Detention Revisited

Using data from over 1 million people booked into a jail in Kentucky between 2009 and 2018, this study investigates the relationship between pretrial detention and failure to appear, rearrest, and sentencing outcomes. The author’s analysis indicates that there is no deterrent effect of pretrial detention, as incarcerating people prior to their trial does not result in better pretrial outcomes in terms of failure to appear or rearrest. The author also concludes that the costs of pretrial detention do not translate to increased public safety.  

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  • Increasing the amount of time spent in pretrial detention was not consistently associated with increased likelihood of failing to appear.
  • Pretrial detention for any length of time is associated with a higher likelihood of rearrest pending trial. 
  • Those released pretrial were less likely to receive a sentence of incarceration compared to those who were detained pretrial; when those released were sentenced to incarceration, they were sentenced for shorter periods than those who were detained. 


  • Pretrial arrest should generally be avoided. 
  • Judges should be informed of the consequences of pretrial detention. 
  • Justice-involved individuals should be offered services and resources during the pretrial phase.
Christopher Lowenkamp
Core Correctional Solutions