The Intuitive-Override Model: Nudging Judges Toward Pretrial Risk Assessment Instruments

33 Pages Posted: 30 Apr 2018

See all articles by Matthew DeMichele

Matthew DeMichele

RTI International

Megan Comfort

RTI International; University of California, San Francisco (UCSF)

Shilpi Misra

RTI International

Kelle Barrick

RTI International

Peter Baumgartner

RTI International

Date Written: April 25, 2018

Abstract

The development, implementation, and use of risk assessments are some of the most important and controversial issues facing criminal justice systems today. The recent push for judges to use risk assessments in their pretrial release decision making has met with resistance on several fronts, including from judges themselves. We conducted in-depth interviews with judges in a diverse set of courts that were using the Public Safety Assessment (PSA), a risk assessment developed by the Laura and John Arnold Foundation. Interview questions aimed to gain insight into how judges define and assess risk, as well as how they perceive the potential for bias and disparate impacts for communities of color in the use of risk assessments. In this manuscript, we frame our analysis with Guthrie and colleagues’ intuitive-override model and suggest that risk assessment instruments can help judges engage both intuitive and deliberative models of decision making. Our findings indicate that judges perceive a tension when reconciling the actuarial aspect of the PSA and their experience-based inclination to learn about defendants’ lives as a way of assessing risk through determinations of culpability and blameworthiness. We conclude by discussing the PSA through a review of legal scholarship that challenges risk assessments on ethical and moral grounds, and recommend the creation of researcher-judge feedback loops along with increased transparency of model development as key features to improve the accuracy, adoption, and understanding of risk assessments.

Suggested Citation

DeMichele, Matthew and Comfort, Megan and Misra, Shilpi and Barrick, Kelle and Baumgartner, Peter, The Intuitive-Override Model: Nudging Judges Toward Pretrial Risk Assessment Instruments (April 25, 2018). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3168500 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3168500

Matthew DeMichele (Contact Author)

RTI International ( email )

PO Box 12194
Research Triangle Park, 27709
United States

Megan Comfort

RTI International

351 California St.
Ste. 500
San Francisco, CA 94104
United States
415-848-1375 (Phone)

University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) ( email )

Third Avenue and Parnassus
San Francisco, CA 94143
United States

Shilpi Misra

RTI International ( email )

PO Box 12194
Research Triangle Park, 27709
United States

Kelle Barrick

RTI International ( email )

PO Box 12194
Research Triangle Park, 27709
United States

Peter Baumgartner

RTI International ( email )

PO Box 12194
Research Triangle Park, 27709
United States

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