Make the First Step Act a Smarter Step by Opening the Risk Assessment Black Box

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Make the First Step Act a Smarter Step by Opening the Risk Assessment Black Box

December 16, 2018 | by By Colleen V. Chien and Clarence Wardell IIIThe Hill

In an opinion piece for The Hill, Colleen Chien and Clarence Wardell describe—and praise—bipartisan efforts to pass common-sense criminal justice system reform. However, echoing the concerns of the civil rights community, the authors caution against the First Step Act’s requirement to develop and adopt a risk and needs assessment system that would prescribe tailored treatment for prisoners based on whether their risk of recidivism is minimum, low, medium, or high. Chien and Wardell write that relying on demographic factors to classify prisoners by risk exacerbates and further embeds historical and institutional patterns of bias. To read the authors’ suggestions for improving the First Step Act and putting criminal justice reform on a path that is more balanced and just, click here.