Volume 12
Issue 2
Fall '20

Reaction to: “Risk Assessment Instruments are Inappropriate for Sentence Reform: Real Solutions for Reform Address Racial Stratification”

Written By: Beneva Davies-Nyandebo


Anderson’s note argues that Risk Assessment Instruments (RAIs) are inappropriate tools for sentence reform and offers other suggestions for “real reform” and transfor- mation of the United States criminal justice system. Using Wisconsin’s finding that if the RAI output is only one of many factors considered in sentencing, it does not violate due process protections, the Note sets forth three propositions in support of the assertion that RAIs are inappropriate: (1) the elimination of racial stratification should be a judicial objective because the current system lacks acknowledgment and consideration of the legal system’s role in creating, sustaining and maintaining the cur- rent carceral state. The author sets out to persuade the reader that attempts to render criminal sentences based on risk assessment scores without addressing how the legacy of systemic racism is built into the data that is leveraged in determining “risk” is inap- propriate because that legacy taints the data outputs of RAIs–overlooking the deeper historical context and social construction of the risk indicators measured by these tools; (2) that the pre-eminent case on the constitutionality of RAIs, State v. Loomis, was decided incorrectly; and (3) that RAIs should not be used in sentencing because they cause harm and reinforce the existing racial stratification.

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