The National Center for State Courts recently completed a study that expands the use of its established weighted workload assessment model to a new area of the justice system—pretrial services.

The Commonwealth of Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services Pretrial and Local Probation Workload Study establishes a baseline for understanding workload values for case types and the average number of hours available to officers to complete their duties.

“The project is an innovative approach to examining resource needs within the area of pretrial in addition to probation services,” said NCSC Principal Research Associate Brian Ostrom. “I think it is the first time such a project with this scope has been conducted. It’s a very nice development within our larger scope of work in the workload assessment area.”

Nationally, pretrial and probation leaders face continual challenges of effectively managing rising caseloads, limited staff, and increasing investigation and supervision requirements and expectations. Efforts to develop national standards for caseload sizes have been unsuccessful due to varied state and local investigation and supervision practices.

Using the weighted caseload model, the NCSC team sought to address two recurring issues found nationally:

  • Objective assessment of the number of pretrial and probation officers required to manage current and future caseloads.
  • Determination of resource allocation according to geographical need.

The Virginia study included a time study and sufficiency-of-time survey of 445 full-time officers throughout the state to understand the amount of time spent on investigations, supervision activities, and non-supervision responsibilities, impacts of COVID-19, and employee wellness. Through its use of workload values, NCSC determined the number of additional full-time positions necessary to meet the current workload.

Kristina Bryant, an NCSC principal court management consultant and director of the Virginia Workload Assessment Project, noted, “We commend Virginia for examining new ways to evaluate workload and resources. It is essential for decision makers at both the state and local levels to have an accurate picture of workload, changes in practices, and the impact to an agency’s ability to effectively deliver services.”