Supporting Evidence-Based Sentencing Decisions With Risk-Need-Responsivity Principles

In 2011 the Conference of Chief Judges and the Conference of State Court Administrators endorsed a set of principles for incorporating risk and need assessment information into sentencing1. As of this writing, the National Center for State Courts (NCSC) has published reports for ten jurisdictions profiling their experiences using validated risk-need assessments (RNA) to inform their sentencing practices.
With decades of research advocating the need for a more scientifically objective approach to sentence decision-making, and with numerous jurisdictions reporting success in using such tools, it is our belief that the trend toward RNA-informed sentencing will continue to gain speed and acceptance.
This paper provides a historical perspective as well as the current thinking on the use of evidence-based practices for judicial case formulation and sentencing design. To help illustrate the benefits of validated RNA and assist the user in “connecting the dots”, this paper references the COMPAS2 (Correctional Offender Management Profiling for Alternative Sanctions) RNA system. There are several RNA systems available to justice agencies for this purpose and we encourage the reader’s independent investigation of such tools.

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