This final report for a project to address the core questions regarding the use of pre-adjudication risk assessments in two counties in Oregon state, and as a result, the report fills a knowledge gap on how assessments are being applied in actual courtroom decision-making.
This paper reports on a research project that was designed to address these four core questions regarding the use of pre-adjudication risk assessments (PAA) in two Oregon counties that have utilized a PAA to inform criminal case negotiation since 2014: Has the introduction of a PAA into the court decision-making process impacted racial and ethnic disparities in sentencing outcomes over time in each county? Does one PAA process, such as the use of judicial conference versus normal approach, appear to produce more promising results in impacting racial or ethnic disparities? Using interviews and visual observations, such as viewing the judicial conferences where PAA is discussed, how does the PAA influence case discussion and negotiation, decision-making, and workgroup norms and culture? If the average risk scores and subsequent sentencing and supervision outcomes differ by race or ethnicity, is it the PAA that causes such disparate outcomes, or is their application, or both? The primary activities of the project involved quantitative data acquisition and analysis; 75 transcribed interviews with a variety of criminal justice workers; three observations of judicial settlement conferences; the mentorship plan required by the grant, which involved the provision of training opportunities. Results and findings for the four research questions are discussed in-depth, the authors note primary takeaways and limitations to the research and suggest that their findings may only be applicable to programs that are targeting like-defendants and cases, where defendants are assessed as being high to very-high risk and facing presumptive prison sentences.