Judicial gatekeeping on scientific validity with risk assessment tools

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Risk assessment tools driven by algorithms offer promising advantages in predicting the recidivism risk of defendants. Jurisdictions are increasingly relying upon risk tool outcomes to help judges at sentencing with their decisions on whether to incarcerate or whether to use community-based sanctions. Yet as sentencing has significant consequences for public safety and individual rights, care must be taken that the tools relied upon are appropriate for the task. Judges are encouraged to act as gatekeepers to evaluate whether the forensic risk assessment tool offered has a sufficient level of validity in that it is fit for the purposes of sentencing, provides an acceptable level of accuracy in its predictions, and achieves an adequate standard of reliability with regard to its outcomes.




Hamilton, M. (2020). Judicial gatekeeping on scientific validity with risk assessment tools. Behavioral Sciences & the Law, 38(3), 226–245. https://doi.org/10.1002/bsl.2456

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