States are increasingly adopting risk assessment instruments (RAIs) to help judges determine the appropriate type and length of punishment for an offender. Although this sentencing practice has been met with a wide variety of scholarly criticism, there has been virtually no discussion of how RAIs treat youth as a strong factor contributing to a high risk score. This silence is puzzling. Not only is youth undoubtedly the most powerful risk factor in most RAIs, but youth also holds a special place in the criminal justice system as a “mitigating factor of great weight.” This Comment presents the first in-depth critique of RAIs with respect to their treatment of youth. It argues that, as currently designed and implemented, RAIs both contradict longstanding and widespread views about the proper role of youth as a factor in punishment and undermine efforts to craft proportionate sentences consistent with principles of justice and modern social science.
Young and Dangerous: The Role of Youth in Risk Assessment Instruments,
Mich. L. Rev.
Available at: https://repository.law.umich.edu/mlr/vol120/iss3/5