This article, which appeared in the Cardozo Journal of Conflict Resolution, seeks to address a gap in the fierce debate over pretrial risk assessment: the role of the defender. The authors contend defense attorneys can challenge the data science undergirding risk assessments and use their implementation as a lever for renegotiating the “going rates"—the default rules that expedite the disposition of cases and drive plea-bargaining in a given jurisdiction.
Drawing on a case study of more than 175,000 defendants in New York City, this report concludes concerns over risk assessments perpetuating racial disparities in pretrial decisions are real. However, at least in the New York City example, it finds a more targeted use of risk assessments could both significantly reduce pretrial detention and alleviate racial disparities. But realizing that potential requires jurisdictions to think "beyond the algorithm"—what do they want to use a risk assessment for?
Reversing the United States' reliance on incarceration requires rethinking current approaches to offenses involving violence. Judges can play a unique role. In October 2018, the Center for Court Innovation, with support from the Joyce Foundation and Latham & Watkins LLP, convened a small group of judicial leaders to grapple with the challenges of alternative sentencing for cases involving violent behavior.
About two out of three people in local jails are being held awaiting trial, often because they can't afford bail. What if a mathematical formula could do a more objective job of identifying who could be safely released? That's the promise of risk assessments. But critics call them "justice by algorithm," and contend they're reproducing the bias inherent to the justice system, only this time under the guise of science.
Prosecutors across the country are increasingly developing innovative strategies to divert pretrial defendants to community-based programs. While risk assessment can be a powerful aid to identifying eligible participants, in practice, selecting and putting into place the proper tool can be challenging. Drawing on recent studies of risk assessments used in pretrial contexts, this document lays out key principles for ensuring their effective implementation.
This study seeks to validate the Criminal Court Assessment Tool on a sample of misdemeanor defendants participating in a deferred prosecution program in Cook County, Illinois. We developed the brief, publicly accessible risk-and-needs assessment for use in high-volume jurisdictions. In this study, it was found to have good overall predictive accuracy, with program participants identified as having significant needs related to substance use and employment, supporting the use of diversion to services in lieu of prosecution.
How do we reconcile the call in some quarters for more low-level enforcement with a desire to reduce the impact of the criminal justice system, particularly on communities of color? This Boston University Law Review article attempts to answer that question by articulating a new approach to misdemeanor justice that reconciles the maintenance of public safety with the urgent need to reduce unnecessary incarceration.
If the justice system replaced jail and other traditional sanctions for misdemeanor defendants with services and treatment, what should those interventions look like? By identifying the drivers of repeat, low-level offending, this in-depth profile of misdemeanor defendants in New York City lays the groundwork for developing more effective and proportionate responses.
This paper explores prosecutor-led diversion programs for misdemeanor defendants in Cook County, Illinois, focusing specifically on the effect of an enhanced program that includes a risk-needs assessment and varying program mandates based on risk.
A brief assessment tool designed for high-volume criminal justice environments is a strong predictor of recidivism as administered to pretrial defendants in New York City, according to this comprehensive validation study. Unlike many such tools, the Criminal Court Assessment Tool, developed by the Center for Court Innovation, identifies a defendant's risk of re-offending and also ascertains the needs potentially fueling criminal behavior, facilitating referrals to effective interventions.