The Risk Based Sentencing Controversy

A number of states and potentially the federal government have and could implement what is known as “risk based sentencing.” What is risk based sentencing?

It is a numerical approach to establishing terms of imprisonment based upon “analysis” of a convicted citizen’s “factors”.

The basic problem is that the risk scores are primarily or wholly based on the convicted citizen’s “characteristics”: criminal history (a legitimate criterion), but also unemployment, marital status, age, education, finances, neighborhood, and family background, including family members’ criminal history.

But in the new, profiling-based sentencing regimen, markers of socioeconomic disadvantage increase a defendant’s risk score, and most likely his sentence.

If you analyze the people in prison and then make a ‘formula” to decide who should be imprisoned, you end up with the same old situation we are currently in.

We should remember that people who go to prison are and will always be people, they are not numbers.

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