Sentencing Reform: Lessons from 10 Counties


As states begin to implement criminal justice reforms, judges and prosecutors will likely start to use risk and needs assessment (RNA) information during sentencing on a routine basis, according to a report published by the National Center for State Courts' Center for Sentencing Initiatives. In the report titled “Using Risk andNeeds Assessment Information at Sentencing: Observations from Ten Jurisdictions,” the authors analyzed initiatives in 10 jurisdictions nationwide, including behavioral treatment programs, evidence-based supervision programs and partnerships between probation departments and courts.

“In Yamhill County (Oregon), for example, the initiative explicitly focuses on offenders who would presumptively be sent to prison under the state's sentencing guidelines system or a repeat property or drug offender initiative but who instead can be safely and effectively supervised in the community,” write Jennifer K. Elek, Roger K. Warren and Pamela M. Casey. “In two other jurisdictions (Cuyahoga County, Ohio, andTravis County, Texas) RNA information is used specifically and only to recommend the supervision conditions and programming that would be appropriate to address the defendant's dynamic risk factors if the defendant is sentenced in the community.”

Stakeholders in the 10 jurisdictions see themselves as having changed as a result of newly available resources and the “changing landscape of their local legal and service cultures,” the report states. Newly implemented reforms in the 10 jurisdictions include a Nebraska law that ensures probation officers are trained on RNAs and evidence-based supervision strategies and a California law that provides funding incentives to counties that successfully reduce recidivism.

Read the full report HERE.

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