<< News Scan | Main | Charlottesville and the Symbolic Value of the Death Penalty >>

News Scan

The Risk of Using Risk Assessment Tools:  Anti-death penalty advocates make their strongest argument when they remind us that, for all of its time intensive layers of review, America's criminal justice system cannot guarantee that 100% of the murderers sentenced to death are actually 100% guilty of the murders they were sentenced to die for.  Because of this, CJLF has always advocated that any legitimate question of guilt, ie. a claim supported by evidence, should trigger additional review or default the sentence to LWOP.   Anti-incarceration advocates use the same "the system is not perfect" argument to support "smart sentencing" and "right on crime" reforms aimed to prevent the good criminals from going to prison, or even jail in some states. To placate the gullible into supporting such reforms proponents assure us that brilliant scientists have developed sophisticated "risk assessment tools"  to distinguish the bad criminals who might hurt somebody from the good criminals who just want to steal your car or wallet.  This would be wonderful if the risk assessment tools, which are algorithms originally developed to anticipate changes in financial markets, worked on humans.  But they don't.  In fact, they are far less perfect than the mean old "three strikes and your out policy" of the 1990s or the "three will get you twenty" policy of the 1950s.  When these risk assessments get it wrong, innocent people get raped, robbed and murdered by the bad criminals the algorithm failed to identify.  Right now in California, the Legislature is considering using these wonderful "risk assessment tools" to determine which arrestees should be released without bail prior to trial.  The one-thousand-strong Los Angeles Deputy District Attorneys Association has this post on the real world effect this junk science has on public safety.
Note:  The Arnold Foundation, which developed the tool discussed, partners with George Soros' Open Society Foundation on criminal justice policy issues. 

Leave a comment

Monthly Archives