Here are a couple of items on sentencing issues our readers may find interesting.
The elderly prison population in Wisconsin is growing
In 2000 there were 202 prisoners over 60 in the Wisconsin prison system; in 2016, the number was over 1,200. Michael O’Hear explores the numbers and policy ramifications in two posts (one and two) at his Life Sentences blog.
Risk assessment algorithms may lead to longer sentences for poor defendants
Three academics did a controlled experiment involving 340 judges from multiple jurisdictions with criminal sentencing experience. Each judge got a case vignette; formal risk assessment information was either omitted or provided, and if provided included an orientation to the instrument, the defendant’s total score, classification as “medium-to-high risk of re-arrest,” and scores on specific risk factors. The relatively poor defendant and relatively affluent defendant earned the same risk scores. The result: risk assessment information reduced the likelihood of incarceration for relatively affluent defendants, but increased the likelihood of incarceration for relatively poor defendants. “It appears that under some circumstances, risk assessment information can increase sentencing disparities.” Jennifer Skeem, Nicholas Scurich, and John Monahan, Impact of Risk Assessment on Judges’ Fairness in Sentencing Relatively Poor Defendants, University of Virginia School of Law, Public Law and Legal Theory Paper Series (Jan. 2019).