New Risk-Analysis Approved For Use By Pennsylvania Judges

Sep 5, 2019

A state commission that creates sentencing policy for Pennsylvania's criminal courts is approving a new risk-assessment formula to help judges determine which defendants aren't likely to be violent reoffenders, but critics say it's based on discriminatory data and could expand prison ranks.

The Pennsylvania Commission on Sentencing voted 7-2 on Thursday to approve the formula. The vote comes nine years after lawmakers ordered it to help curb Pennsylvania's then-rising prison population by using alternative forms of punishment for offenders who aren't threats to public safety.

One criticism is that the formula considers a defendant's criminal history, which critics say discriminates against minorities who are disproportionately policed.

The commission suggests the formula could lead to increased use of sentencing alternatives and more limited use of probation.

It's to start in 2020.