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The United States of Risk Assessment: The Machines Influencing Criminal Justice Decisions

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A host of criminal justice researchers, universities and private companies support the current market for risk and needs assessment (RNA) and pretrial risk assessment tools. But they’re far from the only ones. After all, some U.S. states aren’t just consumers of assessment tools—they’re developers of them as well. To what extent their dual role is needed, however, is a matter of some debate.

Legaltech News found little consensus around whether state-built proprietary tools are more accurate than ones developed by third parties, or vice versa. While some states with unique populations argue that third-party instruments are unable to meet their specific needs, others say the research and support behind these tools make them viable options. What’s more, they add that adopting a third-party tool is often less expensive than developing their own proprietary one.

But while the jury is still out on state versus third-party assessment tools, there’s more consensus around the best third-party instrument—or lack thereof. Many researchers say there’s little difference between the most widely used third-party tools, so long as they’re all properly validated. Yet this doesn’t mean these instruments have all hit their potential.

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Rhys Dipshan

CT-born, New York-based legal tech reporter covering everything from in-house technology disruption to privacy trends, blockchain, AI, cybersecurity, and ghosts-in-the-machine. Continually waiting for law to catch up with tech. (It's like waiting for Godot, but without the clowns)

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Victoria Hudgins

I am a reporter for Legaltech News where I cover national and international cyber regulations and legal tech innovations and developments.

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Frank Ready

Frank Ready is a reporter on the tech desk at ALM Media. He can be reached at [email protected]

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