The impact of a risk assessment tool can take on a whole new dimension when their scores are considered by judges in sentencing. But while the use of risk assessments in courts is mandatory in some states, most judges often have wide leeway in deciding how much, or how little, these scores factor into their decisions.

While some disregard or override scores entirely—rendering the risk assessment tools’ impact almost nonexistent—others will use them for purposes for which they were not originally intended, which comes with its fair share of controversy and legal challenges.

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