The Use of Risk Assessment at Sentencing: Implications for Research and Policy

21 Pages Posted: 2 May 2017

See all articles by Jordan Hyatt

Jordan Hyatt

Drexel University

Steven L. Chanenson

Villanova University School of Law

Date Written: December 2016


At-sentencing risk assessments are predictions of an individual’s statistically likely future criminal conduct. These assessments can be derived from a number of methodologies ranging from unstructured clinical judgment to advanced statistical and actuarial processes. Some assessments consider only correlates of criminal recidivism, while others also take into account criminogenic needs. Assessments of this nature have long been used to classify defendants for treatment and supervision within prisons and on community supervision, but they have only relatively recently begun to be used – or considered for use – during the sentencing process. This shift in application has raised substantial practical and policy challenges and questions.

This paper, supported by the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance, directly addresses these issues and provides information and examples from a range of jurisdictions, including some which have integrated at-sentencing risk assessment programs in place or are in the process of doing so. Derived from a survey of judges, as well as a series of interviews with stakeholders from across the nation, opportunities for future research and planning to guide the cautious engagement with at-sentencing risk assessment are identified.

Keywords: Corrections and Sentencing, Criminal Law, Risk Assessment

Suggested Citation

Hyatt, Jordan and Chanenson, Steven L., The Use of Risk Assessment at Sentencing: Implications for Research and Policy (December 2016). Villanova Law/Public Policy Research Paper No. 2017-1040, Available at SSRN:

Jordan Hyatt

Drexel University ( email )

3141 Chestnut St
Philadelphia, PA 19104
United States

Steven L. Chanenson (Contact Author)

Villanova University School of Law ( email )

299 N. Spring Mill Road
Villanova, PA 19085
United States
610-519-7459 (Phone)
610-519-6472 (Fax)

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