One way to reduce mass incarceration and the fiscal and human sufferings intrinsic to it is to engage in a morally constrained form of risk assessment in sentencing offenders. The assessment of an offender’s risk of recidivism was once a central component of criminal sentencing in the United States. In the mid-1970s, however, sentencing based on forward-looking assessments of offender risk was abolished in many jurisdictions in favor of set periods of confinement based solely on backward-looking appraisals of offender blameworthiness. This situation is rapidly changing, however. After a hiatus of 40 years, there has been a resurgence of interest in risk assessment in criminal sentencing. Across the political spectrum, advocates have proposed that mass incarceration can be shrunk without simultaneously jeopardizing the historically low crime rate if we put a morally constrained form of risk assessment back into sentencing.
John T. Monahan, Risk Assessment in Sentencing, in Reforming Criminal Justice, Academy for Justice, 77–94 (2017).