Risk Assessment

Risk Redux: The Resurgence of Risk Assessment in Criminal Sanctioning

John Monahan

University of Virginia School of Law

Jennifer L. Skeem

University of California, Irvine

October 28, 2013

Virginia Public Law and Legal Theory Research Paper No. 2013-36

Abstract:

After almost four decades of “just deserts,” the past several years have seen a remarkable resurgence of risk assessment as an essential component of criminal sanctioning. In this article, we review current practice in the incorporation of risk assessment into the sanctioning systems of several illustrative states, and describe the major dimensions on which state practices differ. We then elaborate the various meanings ascribed to the foundational concept of “risk” in criminal sanctioning, and contrast “risk” with what are now often called “criminogenic needs,” the fulfillment of which ostensibly reduce an offender’s level of “risk.” Finally, we address the choice of an approach to risk assessment in sentencing, particularly in the resource-starved state of current correctional practice.

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