More States Use Risk-Assessment Software in Making Parole Decisions


Trying to cut ballooning corrections costs, more states are requiring parole boards to make better decisions about which convicts to keep in prison and which to release, reports the Wall Street Journal. Increasingly, parole officials are using data- and evidence-based methods, many involving software programs, to calculate an inmate’s odds of recidivism. This is a surprising shift in how parole decisions are made.

Officials accustomed to relying heavily on experience and intuition in parole rulings now must also take computerized inmate assessments and personality tests into account. Traditionally, factors like the severity of a crime or whether an offender shows remorse weigh heavily in parole rulings. By contrast, automated assessments based on inmate interviews and biographical data such as age at first arrest are designed to recognize patterns that may predict future crime and make release decisions more objective, advocates tools say. At least 15 states, including Louisiana, Kentucky, Hawaii, and Ohio, now have policies requiring use of modern risk-assessment methods in corrections, says the Pew Public Safety Performance Project.

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