Open Letter to the Pretrial Justice Institute

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by James Austin, Ph.D., JFA Institute; Sarah L. Desmarais, Ph.D., North Carolina State University; John Monahan, Ph.D., University of Virginia School of Law

Re: Response to PJI’s Position on the Abolition of Pretrial Risk Assessment Instruments

Recently the Pretrial Justice Institute (PJI) re-issued its former statement that argues that all pretrial risk assessment instruments (PRAIs) be abolished.  Their rationale is understandable but fails to account for the state of the scientific evidence on PRAIs.

Abolishing PRAIs and allowing judges to return to—or, more accurately, to continue—the practice of making subjective judgments of what constitutes risk would be a major step backwards. While the use of PRAIs will not eliminate pretrial detention and racial bias, they are a step in the right direction. They also are easier to fix than biased human decision-making.  A review of the full body of scientific evidence on PRAIs supports this viewpoint.

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