Pretrial Assessment and Linkages Services Pilot Program (PALS)
This report presents findings from a descriptive evaluation of the Pretrial Assessment and Linkages Services Pilot Program implemented by the King County Department of Adult and Juvenile Detention.
The PALS Pilot Program offers a jail alternative for eligible and appropriate felony pretrial defendants in South King County, Washington. The program was launched to serve selected felony pretrial defendants to fill a gap in services for pretrial defendants in the South King County geographical region, one of the most racially and economically diverse regions in the state.
- Juvenile Detention
Last Modified: Monday, March 27, 2023
This report presents findings from a descriptive evaluation of the Pretrial Assessment and Linkages Services (PALS) Pilot Program implemented by the King County Department of Adult and Juvenile Detention (KCDAJD).
The descriptive evaluation of the PALS Pilot Program was implemented by the King County Department of Adult and Juvenile Detention September 2020 through December 2021. The PALS Pilot Program offers a jail alternative for eligible and appropriate felony pretrial defendants in South King County, Washington. The program was launched to serve selected felony pretrial defendants in South King County, Washington to fill a gap in services for pretrial defendants in the South King County geographical region, one of the most racially and economically diverse regions in the state. KCDAJD is committed to addressing disproportionality and recognizes their role in aiding King County Superior Court to reduce the impacts to individuals, particularly Black, indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) who have become involved in the criminal legal system and who reside or have community ties in South King County. The PALS Pilot Program addresses service gaps of pretrial defendants entering the criminal legal system in South King County, Washington. The PALS Pilot Program employs a human services approach by providing responsive services and support as an alternative to incarceration.
PALS services include substance use disorder treatment, opiate disorder treatment (Buprenorphine/ Suboxone), counseling, mental health, and behavioral health services, cognitive-behavioral intervention, acupuncture services, and GED preparation and testing. The primary goal of the PALS Pilot Program is to improve opportunities for reentry success through the acceptance of court-referred individuals into a welcoming, therapeutic environment that is culturally responsive and adequately staffed and resourced to meet client needs; linking clients to off-site services; and referring clients to ongoing behavioral health and other services, as appropriate, upon discharge.
The goal of this descriptive evaluation of the PALS Pilot Program is to tell the story of the pilot program implementation and process; describe the program; provide a profile of PALS program clients with attention to the services utilized, program dosage (defined as number of days in the PALS Pilot Program), and recidivism (defined as violations (citations and/or arrests) post PALs Pilot Program intake); and to identify program strengths, weaknesses, and satisfaction from the perspective of clients, staff, and city administrators.
Outcome data was obtained from the Administration of Courts and publicly available court data. Qualitative data was collected through structured interviews with clients, program staff, ancillary staff, attorneys, judges, Kent City Officials to understand the experiences and perspectives of PALS participants, the staff charged with delivering the program, and city officials in the city in which the program is located.
The results of the descriptive evaluation of the PALS Pilot Program show that:
- King County Superior Court was the largest source of client referrals.
- Of the clients referred to PALS Pilot Program, 65.9% were Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC).
- PALS clients were most often referred for substance abuse treatment services.
- The most common non-compliance reason for PALS clients was a “No Show” before or after initial assessment.
- Results examining the relationship between key programmatic elements and recidivism show that priors, program dosage (number of days in PALS Pilot Program), referral origin (county/city), and program completion significantly predict recidivism defined as violations (citations and arrests). Priors significantly predicted recidivism when measured dichotomously and as number of violations. Program dosage predicted recidivism when measured as # of violations. Referral court and program completion predicted recidivism when measured as number of days to first violation.
- There were no onsite incidents during the evaluation period involving PALS participants.
The qualitative analyses revealed that clients, staff, and officials expressed positive views of the PALS Pilot Program as a jail alternative noting that the program offered clients opportunities to succeed and provided access to much needed services including substance abuse and mental health treatment. Staff and officials suggested that the PALS program should be expanded across jurisdictions and services to include housing, employment, transportation, and additional wrap-around services. Clients indicated that they were unclear on the goals of the program and suggested that the program process could be improved with clarity regarding the goals of the program at intake. City officials raised concerns about changes in the design and implementation of the program that differed from the original proposed model. The officials indicated that lack of accountability and public safety were their primary concerns about the PALS Pilot Program noting that the expectation was that the crimes committed by program clients would be non-violent while many of the clients in the Pilot included individuals whose charges and convictions included violent crime.
Recommendations and lessons learned include:
- Enhanced onboarding of PALS clients to improve understanding of program objectives to increase client commitment to program goals (Several PALS clients indicated that they were not clear what the program was rather, they viewed the program as just a jail alternative).
- Designing additional methods for accountability (several interviewees expressed beliefs that clients were not being held accountable).
- Additional flexibility in times or days of the week that treatment was offered would be helpful for clients (Some indicated they had to choose between going to their job or going to treatment).
The results suggest that the PALS Pilot Program is a starting point as a South King County jail alternative for continued and expanded services for individuals, most of whom are BIPOC, who may not otherwise have access to services in the diverse South King County geographical region. There were several limitations that impeded the research design and data collection. The initial plan for the PALS evaluation was to employ a multi-year quasi-experimental design with a comparison group. The evaluation was impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and budget cuts and the changes to the research design resulted in a loss of data and low sample size. A quasi-experimental program evaluation that includes a comparison group is an important next step to provide data on the effectiveness of the PALS Pilot Program.