The assessment of an offender’s risk of recidivism is emerging as a key consideration in sentencing policy in many American jurisdictions. However, little information is available on how actual sentencing judges view this development. This study surveys the views of a population sample of judges in Virginia, the state that has gone farther than any other in legislatively mandating risk assessment for certain drug and property offenders. Results indicate that a strong majority of judges endorse the principle that sentencing eligible offenders should include a consideration of recidivism risk. However, a strong majority also report the availability of alternatives to imprisonment in their jurisdictions to be inadequate at best. Finally, most judges oppose the adoption of a policy requiring them to provide a written reason for declining to impose alternative interventions on “low risk” offenders.
Monahan, John and Metz, Anne and Garrett, Brandon L., Judicial Appraisals of Risk Assessment in Sentencing (April 1, 2018). Virginia Public Law and Legal Theory Research Paper No. 2018-27. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3168644