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Assessing the "Other": Constructions of "Asianness" in Risk Assessments by Probation Officers

NCJ Number
British Journal of Criminology Volume: 45 Issue: 5 Dated: September 2005 Pages: 721-740
Barbara Hudson; Gaynor Bramhall
Date Published
September 2005
20 pages
This article reports findings from a study that compared presentence reports and risk-assessment schedules prepared on White and Asian offenders by a probation service in northwest England.
All presentence reports--along with any associated ACE (Assessment, Case Management, and Evaluation system) and risk-assessment reports--prepared on minority ethnic offenders between June and December 2000 were analyzed, together with a 1-in-10 offense-matched sample of reports on White offenders. White-offender cases were sorted into groups that matched the minority-offender reports by age, probation-area function, and court type. White-offender cases were then selected randomly within each of the sort groups, yielding 240 cases. The number was reduced to 211 viable cases (144 Whites, 57 Asians, 2 "Other," and 8 "no information"). The two stages of the research consisted of reading the presentence reports and risk documents, as well as a computer-assisted analysis of the material using Statistical Package for Social Sciences (SPSS). Although Muslim Asians have long been viewed as the most "other" of "others" compared to White British citizens in terms of their religion, family and community traditions and bonds, dress, and separateness, the findings of this study indicate a recent trend toward the stereotypical criminalization of South Asians, particularly Pakistanis, and toward the "racialization" of crime committed by Muslim Asians. The study suggests the construction of the Pakistani/Muslim as criminalized "Other," which is leading to disadvantage in criminal justice decisionmaking for this group of offenders. Criteria for risk assessment in presentence reports should be so clearly objective that a decisionmaker's conditioned biases regarding the racial/cultural characteristics of the offender should not influence risk-assessment conclusions. The objectivity of presentence reports should be continually monitored. 6 tables and 50 references