Risk Assessment in Criminal Sentencing

University of virginiaThe past several years have seen a surge of interest in using risk assessment in criminal sentencing, both to reduce recidivism and to reduce prison populations. This publication from the University of Virginia School of Law discusses sentencing theories and then illustrates the varying roles that risk assessment may play in the sentencing process. The various meanings of “risk” in sentencing and the appropriate time to assess the risk of convicted people are clarified, and the publication concludes by addressing four principal problems confronting risk assessment in sentencing: conflating risk and blame, barring individual inferences based on group data, failing adequately to distinguish risk assessment from risk reduction, and ignoring whether, and if so, how, the use of risk assessment in sentencing affects racial and economic disparities in imprisonment.