Hidden Under the ROC. A Critique of Dangerousness Assessment Models Evaluation

Sacha Raoult

Aix Marseille Université; University of Chicago

June 23, 2014

The growing role of dangerousness assessment in the penal system has been critiqued from several perspectives in the last two decades. Apart from the way dangerousness assessment modifies our criminal justice system, the construction of dangerousness assessment models has been criticized for its use of empirical data. This paper critiques models evaluation – the type of scientific research that compares different dangerousness assessment models, and in the end, evaluates recidivism evaluation. The main tool of models evaluation is the receiver operating characteristics (ROC) methodology that was developed for radar transmissions during World War II. This paper emphasizes what ROC curves – that academics have to rely on to rank different dangerousness assessment models due to the inherent logical undecidability of multicriterion decisions – do to the social production of knowledge: they hide ethical choices between order and liberty, substitute an arbitrary acceptable type I/type II error ratio and create an illusion of scientific progress in dangerousness assessment. Finally, thoughts on what data should be made clear in a recidivism prediction meta-analysis for it to be meaningful are discussed.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 25

Keywords: Dangerousness, Actuarial Methods, ROC curves, Incapacitation, Recidivism

JEL Classification: K14

working papers series

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Date posted: May 31, 2014 ; Last revised: June 25, 2014

Suggested Citation

Raoult, Sacha, Hidden Under the ROC. A Critique of Dangerousness Assessment Models Evaluation (June 23, 2014). Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2443735 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2443735

Contact Information

Sacha Raoult (Contact Author)
Aix Marseille Université ( email )
3, Avenue Robert Schuman
Aix-en-Provence Cedex 1, Aix en Provence 13628
University of Chicago ( email )
1101 East 58th Street
Chicago, IL 60637
United States
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