Judging Risk

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Working Paper

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Risk assessment plays an increasingly pervasive role in criminal justice in the United States at all stages of the process, from policing, to pre-trial, sentencing, corrections, and during parole. As efforts to reduce incarceration have led to adoption of risk-assessment tools, critics have begun to ask whether various instruments in use are valid and whether they might reinforce rather than reduce bias in criminal justice outcomes. Such work has neglected how decisionmakers use risk-assessment in practice. In this Article, we examine in detail the judging of risk assessment and we study why decisionmakers so often fail to consistently use such quantitative information.

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