SAGE Journal Articles
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Abstract: Objectives: Discussions of fairness in criminal justice risk assessments typically lack conceptual precision. Rhetoric too often substitutes for careful analysis. In this article, we seek to clarify the trade-offs between different kinds of fairness and between fairness and accuracy.
Methods: We draw on the existing literatures in criminology, computer science, and statistics to provide an integrated examination of fairness and accuracy in criminal justice risk assessments. We also provide an empirical illustration using data from arraignments.
Results: We show that there are at least six kinds of fairness, some of which are incompatible with one another and with accuracy.
Conclusions: Except in trivial cases, it is impossible to maximize accuracy and fairness at the same time and impossible simultaneously to satisfy all kinds of fairness. In practice, a major complication is different base rates across different legally protected groups. There is a need to consider challenging trade-offs. These lessons apply to applications well beyond criminology where assessments of risk can be used by decision makers. Examples include mortgage lending, employment, college admissions, child welfare, and medical diagnoses.
Abstract: Probation supervision with and without home visits is an underresearched area for adjudicated higher risk youth. This study compared 287 juvenile probationers receiving police/probation home visits with similar youth (n = 437) who were supervised on regular probation without home visits. Youth performance was measured during supervision and up to 24 months following probation. The most notable finding was that the rearrest rate for youth who had home visits during supervision was 3 times lower after probation supervision ended than for youth who did not have home visits.
Journal Article 3: Donnelly, E. A. (2018). Can legislatures redress racial discrimination in capital punishment? Evaluating Racial Justice Acts in response to McCleskey. The Journal of Criminal Law, 82, 388–401.
Abstract: Three decades ago, the US Supreme Court declared in McCleskey v Kemp that legislatures, rather than courts, should redress statistically identified disparities in death sentencing. Racial justice efforts failed in Congress, but two states adopted measures that challenge inequalities in capital punishment. This article critically examines the development and impacts of the North Carolina and Kentucky Racial Justice Acts. Findings reveal two policy implications. The acts first actualised judicial wishes for elected officials and the public to address sentencing disparities. Secondly, the policies became distinct ‘super due process’ remedies that require defendants to show racial disparity as an error under specific procedures. Variation in the acts’ approaches to proof and causes of discrimination contributed to differential impact: the questioning of all death sentences within four years in North Carolina and minimal relief in Kentucky for two decades. Lessons are drawn for designing disparity reforms in criminal processing following judicial non-intervention.