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

Brandon L. Garrett

Associate Reporter, Policing Principles

Brandon L. Garrett is the L. Neil Williams, Jr. Professor of Law  at Duke Law School. His research and teaching interests include criminal procedure, wrongful convictions, habeas corpus, corporate crime, scientific evidence, civil rights, civil procedure and constitutional law. Garrett’s recent research includes studies of DNA exonerations and organizational prosecutions. In addition to numerous articles published in leading law journals, he is the author of five books, including: The Death Penalty: Concepts and Insights (West Academic, 2018) (with Lee Kovarsky); and End of its Rope: How Killing the Death Penalty Can Revive Criminal Justice (Harvard University Press, 2017).

John Monahan

University of Virginia School of Law

John Monahan is a John S. Shannon Distinguished Professor of Law, Professor of Psychology and Psychiatric Medicine at University of Virginia School of Law. Professor Monahan is a psychologist, teaches and writes about how courts use behavioral science evidence, violence risk assessment, criminology and mental health law. He is a member of the National Academy of Medicine and of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and serves on the National Research Council.

Anne Metz

University of Lynchburg

Anne Metz is an Assistant Professor and Clinical Coordinator of the Counselor Education Program at the University of Lynchburg. She teaches Counseling Theories, Abnormal Behavior, Human Development, and Marriage and Family Therapy. She also enjoys clinical supervision and teaches the Counselor Education Program’s clinical mental health practicum course. Her research focuses on the intersection of mental health and the law.


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