Risk Assessment in Sanctioning

Risk assessment instruments are data-driven evaluations that characterize the likelihood that a person will commit future crime. Increasingly, jurisdictions across the U.S. are relying on these instruments in their efforts to unwind mass incarceration without compromising public safety.

Despite promising results, these practices raise high profile questions. Should an offender's blameworthiness for a past crime be the only consideration in determining her sentence -- or is there also room to consider whether the sentence will prevent future crime? Are instruments free of predictive bias by race, gender, and class? Will the use of risk assessment exacerbate, mitigate, or have no effect on racial and socioeconomic disparities in sentencing?

We are using diverse methods (from experiments to big data analysis) to provide guidance on such issues -- and help policymakers choose an approach that will improve criminal justice practice at this opportune moment in history.

For a very accessible overview of risk assessment tools in the criminal justice system, watch this video