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Probation Officer Assessments of Risk When the Youth Look Different: Contributions of Structured Professional Judgment to Concerns About Racial Bias

NCJ Number
Youth Violence and Juvenile Justice Dated: 2020
Carla G. Munoz; Rachael T. Perrault; Gina M Vincent
Date Published
12 pages
Since various groups have expressed concern about the potential for actuarial risk assessments to exacerbate racial disparities in justice settings, this study examined that potential when using a different approach to risk assessment, structured professional judgment (SPJ), by comparing risk decisions made by evaluators when the examinee’s race was different from compared to the same as the evaluator.

A sample of youth (N = 1,308) evaluated with the Structured Assessment of Violence Risk in Youth (SAVRY) by 137 juvenile probation officers (JPOs) in five states indicated that the only moderation effect for the match or mismatch between JPOs’ and youths’ race/ethnicity was in the weight JPOs placed on five (out of 24) risk factors in their overall risk opinions. The match between JPOs' and youths' race had no bearing on JPOs’ final determination of youths’ risk levels. This study lends support for investigating the use of SPJ instruments as a method for minimizing racial bias. 77 references (publisher abstract modified)