Risk Assessments... All Talk, No Results

“There is next to no evidence that the adoption of risk assessment has led to dramatic improvements in either incarceration rates or crime without adversely affecting the other margin.”


In most discussions about Bail Reform there is often the mention of"validated" risk assessments as a tool in determining the pretrial release of criminal defendants. 

Proponents of bail reform tout them as the panacea to the ills in the criminal justice system. There are several different types of risk assessments, but the one making the most headlines is the Pretrial Screening Assessment (PSA) created by the John and Laura Arnold Foundation. The theory behind risk assessments is that they can predict whether a defendant will show up for court and/or commit another crime if released. While this seems like a great concept, the reality of these risk assessments is that they have not produced the types of results promised. In fact, in a recent report, random consumers deciding whether a defendant would show up for court or commit a new crime was just as accurate as the so-called scientific algorithm.

 

The Faces of BAIL Reform

When jurisdictions decide to reform their bail systems and utilize a pretrial risk assessment tool, one thing is certain to happen ... judicial discretion takes a backseat to "black box" algorithms and defendants who should never be released without accountability will walk out of jail with little to no supervision. One of the biggest myths of the bail reform movement is that these algorithms can predict whether a defendant will commit a crime if released from jail. Here are just a few of the so called "low risk" defendants that have been released for FREE thanks to a computerized risk assessment algorithm and the implementation of bail reform.

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