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The Champion

June 2018 , Page 18 

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Making Sense of Pretrial Risk Assessments

By Brandon Buskey and Andrea Woods

Actuarial risk assessment tools have come to dominate the critical debate over reforming the nation’s pretrial systems. The spread of risk assessments in recent years has been breathtaking. Over 60 jurisdictions, including several states, now employ a risk assessment.1 Twenty-five percent of people in this country live in a jurisdiction that uses a pretrial risk assessment.2 

The tools, particularly those that use algorithms to forecast pretrial outcomes, have risen to prominence for several interrelated reasons. The first is an emerging and overwhelming consensus that too many arrestees are being held in jail prior to trial. One of every five of the 2.3 million people in U.S. jails and prisons is a person awaiting trial.3 These pretrial detainees account for 76 percent of those held by local jails. There is increasing bipartisan agreement that states must reduce the fiscal strains imposed by such extensive pretrial detention.

Recognition of the scope of pretrial detention has been paire

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