Adventures in Risk: Predicting Violent and Sexual Recidivism in Sentencing Law

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Melissa Hamilton

A new arena inviting collaboration between the law and sciences has emerged in criminal justice. The nation’s economic struggles and its record-breaking rate of incarceration have encouraged policymakers to embrace a new penology which seeks to simultaneously curb prison populations, reduce recidivism, and improve public safety. The new penology draws upon the behavioral sciences for techniques to identify and classify individuals based on their potential future risk and for current best evidence to inform decisions on how to manage offender populations accordingly. Empirically driven practices have been utilized in many criminal justice contexts for years, yet have historically remained “a largely untapped resource” in sentencing decisions. One reason is that sentencing law in America has for some time been largely driven by retributive theories.The new penology clearly incorporates utilitarian goals and welcomes an interdisciplinary approach to meet them.

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