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Assessing the Impact of Pre-Adjudication Assessment Approaches on Racial/Ethnic Disparities in Oregon

Award Information

Award #
Funding Category
Congressional District
Funding First Awarded
Total funding (to date)

Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2017, $360,620)

The goal of the proposed study is to improve criminal court capabilities that support judicial decision-making for more reliable and impartial case and public safety outcomes. The applicant proposes to examine the impact of a pre-adjudication risk-needs assessment administered by probation officers to produce information for consideration by prosecutors, defense counsel, and judges. The proposed research design will compare effects on judicial decision making, recidivism, and other case outcomes. The applicant will access a data warehouse to examine information from arrest through pretrial detention and recidivism (incl. technical violations) for assessment validation and will conduct interviews with court personnel.

Since 2014 there are two counties in Oregon (Multnomah and Yamhill) wherein a PAA using a common risk-screening tool (LS/CMI) is being utilized. A study of these two counties provides a unique opportunity for understanding the use of a PAA and its impact on judicial processing and racial/ethnic disparity in sentencing outcomes because both counties have been using the tool for up to two years already, use the same assessment tool, but apply the assessment in different ways. In Multnomah County, the PAA is used within a judicial conference and in Yamhill County the PAA is shared with the courtroom workgroup and follows a more traditional court process. The research proposal reviews a mixed-methods, quasi-experimental design study involving longitudinal data analysis of court outcomes along with a prospective evaluation of the current implementation of the PAA approaches using observations and interviews with stakeholders. The principal research question is whether the introduction of a PAA into the court-decision-making process has impacted racial and ethnic disparities in sentencing outcomes (e.g. jail, prison, traditional probation, intensive probation, diversion, or trial; and length of sentence) over time in each county? Additional research questions using observations and interviews seek to assess how the implementation of the PAA has impacted case discussion and negotiation, decision-making, and workgroup norms and culture? For example, what is the weight of importance given to risk assessment versus need assessment and are there subtle differences in PAA use based on defendant race/ethnicity. The proposed study is important and timely because there is limited knowledge on the actual implementation and impact of using a PAA on court outcomes.

This project contains a research and/or development component, as defined in applicable law, and complies with Part 200 Uniform Requirements - 2CFR 200.21(A((14). CA/NCF

Date Created: September 19, 2017