Risk Assessment Tools & Sentencing

An effective trial court judge who handles criminal cases can benefit from risk assessment tools……as long as you understand them.Jessica Eaglin (Indiana University Maurer School of Law) has posted The Perils of ‘Old’ and ‘New’ in Sentencing Reform(NYU Annual Survey of American Law, Forthcoming) on SSRN. Here is the abstract: The introduction of actuarial risk assessment tools into the sentencing process is a controversial, but popular trend in the states. While tools’ proliferation is debated from numerous angles, scholarship tends to emphasize why this reform is new or old, and focus on whether and how this trend may improve or undermine sentencing law and policy. This Essay suggests that the institutionalization of actuarial risk assessments into the sentencing process in response to social and political critiques of criminal administration is both a new and old idea. It situates the proliferation of actuarial risk assessments in the context of technical guidelines created to structure and regulate judicial sentencing discretion in the 1980s and beyond. It then examines debates about two conceptual issues – selective incapacitation and equality – to highlight that technical sentencing reforms raise recurring questions at sentencing, even as social perspectives on resolving those questions are shifting. Rather than using the “old” nature of these issues as evidence that actuarial risk assessments should proliferate, however, this Essay urges critical reflection on the turn toward the technical in the present day, in the face of mass incarceration. It urges scholars to dispense of the “old” and “new” concept when reflecting on whether and why actuarial risk assessments are proliferating in the states. It also encourages scholars to draw on the expansive methodological approaches applied to study of sentencing guidelines when considering this reform going forward.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s