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Risk Assessment: A New Approach to Sentencing Non-Violent Offenders

NCJ Number
Caseload Highlights Volume: 10 Issue: 1 Dated: October 2004 Pages: 1-12
Matthew Kleiman; Brian J. Ostrom; Neal B. Kauder
Date Published
October 2004
12 pages
This report presents the results of an evaluation of Virginia’s Offender Risk Assessment program; a selective incapacitation and diversion program through risk assessment.
States struggling with large correctional budgets may be looking for a mechanism to safely divert a significant proportion of nonviolent offenders typically bound for prison to less costly community-based alternatives. The State of Virginia, in an attempt to address this issue, developed a new approach in sentencing nonviolent offenders, the Offender Risk Assessment program. In this report, the National Center for State Courts (NCSC) conducted an evaluation of Virginia’s program which embraced the idea of risk assessment. The goal is to identify offenders with the lowest probability of recidivism and divert them to some form of alternative punishment. The evaluation examined whether risk assessment at the sentencing stage is a viable strategy for diverting nonviolent offenders from incarceration. The evaluation found that risk assessment was effective for identifying good nonviolent candidates for diversion from incarceration. Since this evaluation, the Virginia Criminal Sentencing Commission expanded the risk assessment program statewide in 2003. The report provides information on developing risk assessment and important questions that need to be addressed and answered when developing a statewide program. Tables and figures