Criminogenic Risk Assessment: A Meta-Review and Critical Analysis

By Seth J. Prins, Adam Reich in Decarceral public health

June 30, 2021


June 30, 2021


12:00 AM


A vast body of research underlies the ascendancy of criminogenic risk assessment, which was developed to predict recidivism. It is unclear, however, whether the empirical evidence supports its expansion across the criminal legal system. This meta-review thus attempts to answer the following questions: 1) How well does criminogenic risk assessment differentiate people who are at high risk of recidivism from those at low risk of recidivism? 2) How well do researchers’ conclusions about (1) match the empirical evidence? 3) Does the empirical evidence support the theory, policy, and practice recommendations that researchers make based on their conclusions? A systematic literature search identified 39 meta-analyses and systematic reviews that met inclusion criteria. Findings from these meta-analyses and systematic reviews are summarized and synthesized, and their interpretations are critically assessed. We find that criminogenic risk assessment’s predictive performance is based on inappropriate statistics, and that conclusions about the evidence are inconsistent and often overstated. Three thematic areas of inferential overreach are identified: contestable inferences from criminalization to criminality, from prediction to explanation, and from prediction to intervention. We conclude by exploring possible reasons for the mismatch between proponents’ con- clusions and the evidence, and discuss implications for policy and practice.

Posted on:
June 30, 2021
1 minute read, 199 words
Decarceral public health
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