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A look at race and risk assessment for minority youth defendants

Dr. Christina A. Campbell

As reform advocates continue to examine possible changes to North Carolina’s bail and pre-trial release systems, groups like the ACLU have urged caution.

Pre-trial risk assessments like those now being used in some of North Carolina’s largest counties can lead to racial inequities simply through the way they’re designed.

For a closer look at that issue, this piece from the Dr. Christina A. Campbell of The University of Cincinnati is worth your time.

From the piece:

 

One decision that juvenile courts frequently face when assessing an offending youth is whether that juvenile should be diverted through dismissal or into service learning programs, mental health treatment or advocacy/mentoring programs, especially when he or she has been arrested for relatively minor offenses.

The specific interaction of race and criminogenic risk, however, is rarely addressed with juvenile offenders.

Recent research conducted by myself and colleagues at the University of Cincinnati School of Criminal Justice, titled “Risk Assessment: An Interaction Between Risk, Race and Gender” showed that relationship between risk score and recidivism differed significantly for African-American and white youth, with the scores significantly less predicative for black juveniles.

Although a commonly used risk assessment instrument significantly predicted recidivism for all youth in the study, the risk-recidivism interaction was even more present for males and ethnic minorities.

More specifically, while there were no differences in the types of crimes committed and no difference in the proportion of low, moderate and high-risk African-American and white youth in the study, black males were more likely to receive a new court petition following their initial involvement with the juvenile court, compared to their white counterparts.

This means that there were factors beyond criminogenic risks as measured by risk assessment tools that led to recidivism. And it was the implementation of a risk assessment tool that allowed researchers to uncover this disparity.

Make the time to read the whole thing here.

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