Risk Assessment To Help Set Sentence Upheld In Wisconsin

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Wisconsin judges can weigh a risk assessment test that considers gender when sentencing offenders but can’t use it as the sole factor in determining a sentence’s severity, said a state Supreme Court ruling reported by the Associated Press. The court said so-called COMPAS reports can be used in Wisconsin, but warned the assessment comes with limitations.  Judges can’t use it to determine a sentence’s severity and should explain the report is only one of many factors they consider during sentencing, the court said.

The ruling stems from a case involving Eric Loomis, who was charged in 2013 in connection with a drive-by shooting. He pleaded no contest to stealing a car and guilty to fleeing an officer. A pre-sentence investigation into his background included a COMPAS report, a recidivism risk assessment developed by Northpointe, Inc. The report is based on information taken from a defendant’s criminal file and an interview. It predicts the recidivism risk by comparing the defendant to a similar data group. Loomis’ COMPAS report found he presented a high risk of recidivism. Judge Scott Horne referenced the report when he sentenced him to six years in prison. Loomis argued defendants can’t challenge the reports’ accuracy because Northpointe considers its methodology a trade secret. He also contended that because the reports consider a defendant’s gender they violate the due process right not to be sentenced based on sex.


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