Reversal of Fortune: The Resurgence of Individual Risk Assessment in Criminal Justice
Posted: 18 Oct 2010
Date Written: December 2005
During the 1970s, the enterprise of individual risk assessment in the criminal justice system came under sharp attack from a number of angles, including legal, political, and empirical. A particularly acute site of this controversy was the use of psychological expertise to make individual risk assessments of persons with mental illness who found themselves within the criminal justice system. Successful court challenges to the procedures under which such persons were held in custody as dangerous were followed by empirical research on those persons released. The result was something of a paradigm crisis in the use of individual risk assessment in criminal justice and growing calls for its abandonment. By the 1990s, however, risk assessment was becoming more important than ever to the criminal justice system. This resurgence reflected the political demand for strategies to prevent violent crime and led to significant investments in research and policy development. In the new paradigm of risk assessment, psychological expertise is still valuable but mediated by actuarial and quasi-actuarial methods of identifying the dangerous.
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