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Communicating Risk Information at Criminal Sentencing: An Experimental Analysis

Volume 80 Number 2
September 2016

This experimental study examined whether actuarial risk information affects decision makers' judgments about recidivism risk, whether the type of presentation makes a difference in judged risk, and whether there are differences in judged risk depending on type of crime. In the study, participants (judges, attorneys, and probation officers in four counties of Pennsylvania) received the actuarial risk score of six offenders in one of three formats, along with the meaning of that score in terms of risk of rearrest within three years. Participants then rated recidivism risk before and after receiving the information. Results indicated that the actuarial risk information significantly reduced risk judgments.