Holder Says Sentencing Panel Should Study “Risk Assessments” Carefully


Attorney General Eric Holder is calling for a “careful, independent analysis” by the U.S. Sentencing Commission of the use of risk assessments in sentencing to assign a probability to an individual's likelihood of committing future crimes. Yesterday, Holder was quoted by Time magazine as opposing the concept. Today, speaking to the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers in Philadelphia, the Attorney General softened his rhetoric, saying he was “concerned” that risk assessments “may inadvertently undermine our efforts to ensure individualized and equal justice.”

Holder declared that, “Criminal sentences must be based on the facts, the law, the actual crimes committed, the circumstances surrounding each individual case, and the defendant's history of criminal conduct. They should not be based on unchangeable factors that a person cannot control, or on the possibility of a future crime that has not taken place.” He said that in states, “data-driven reforms are resulting in reduced prison populations – and importantly, those reductions are disproportionately impacting men of color. We should celebrate this milestone – a turning point – and hope that front-end applications can also result in both public safety and racial justice. Careful study of the issue is warranted.” Holder added, “We are at a watershed in the debate over how to reform our sentencing laws.”

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