What Do Criminal Justice Professionals Think About Risk Assessment at Pretrial?
33 Pages Posted: 30 Apr 2018
Date Written: April 25, 2018
Judicial decisions about whether to release or detain defendants are typically made quickly and include some level of input from other courtroom actors (i.e., prosecutors, defenders, and pretrial staff). There has recently been a push to provide more structure to pretrial decision-making by using risk assessment instruments. We describe findings from surveys with judges, prosecutors, defenders, and pretrial staff in 30 jurisdictions about their perceptions and use of risk assessments in making pretrial release decisions. We frame local jurisdictions as courtroom communities in which criminal justice actors share decision-making responsibilities and examine their perceptions of risk assessment. Their view and use of these tools is critical because there is substantial discretion in whether and how they implement recommendations. Findings suggest that there is both consistency and variability in how criminal justice professionals perceive and value risk assessments. This has important policy implications as a shared understanding of the utility of the tool may impact its value and the fidelity of its implementation. Although prior research has focused on judicial and prosecutorial discretion and decision-making at sentencing, this study highlights the need to deepen the conversation about pretrial risk assessment to all courtroom actors.
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