La Crosse County uses new test to help set bond

“When a judge sets a bond the considerations for bond are whether they’re going to come back to court and if they are out if they’ll become a risk to society,” explained Attorney David Pierce.

To help judges, an assessment called COMPAS has been in place for the last few years. The COMPAS gives a judge a score based on personal history like income and mental health. It uses that information to determine how likely it is that someone who was arrested would miss their trial, or commit another crime. However, the program has raised some concerns.

“A COMPAS tries to put a person into a number, which we know we can’t do,” added Pierce.

While the judge setting the bond has access to the COMPAS information, the score of the test is not given to the public.

“The problem of the COMPAS is that it’s actually proprietary information so nobody knows what the actual algorithm.

The County has introduced a different system to help judges determine bond called the Public Safety Assessment, with hopes to have a better focus than the COMPAS.

“What this particular assessment does is it zones in even further and is even more transparent,” elaborated Mandy Bisek, Manager of Justice Support Systems for La Crosse County.

The PSA’s scores are public information, unlike the COMPAS, and it focuses more on what those arrested have done, as opposed to personal information.

“We’re looking at things like ‘Have they failed to appear at hearings in the past?’ or ‘Have they received new criminal activity or new charges while pending court in the past?’,” said Bisek.

With concerns with COMPAS, the county is one of seven in Wisconsin piloting the PSA system, and if successful, the hope is to establish a better pre-trial for the state.

“It will bring more information to us to be able to make more sound decisions and hopefully what we’ll be able to do as a state is create more standards on what pretrial should really look like and what level of information judges should take into consideration,”added Bisek.

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