Predictions of dangerousness in sentencing: Déjà Vu all over again

Michael Tonry

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

2 Scopus citations

Abstract

Predictions of dangerousness are more often wrong than right, use information they shouldn’t, and disproportionately damage minority offenders. Forty years ago, two-thirds of people predicted to be violent were not. For every two “true positives,” there were four “false positives.” Contemporary technology is little better: at best, three false positives for every two true positives. The best-informed specialists say that accuracy topped out a decade ago; further improvement is unlikely. All prediction instruments use ethically unjustifiable information. Most include variables such as youth and gender that are as unjust as race or eye color would be. No one can justly be blamed for being blue-eyed, young, male, or dark-skinned. All prediction instruments incorporate socioeconomic status variables that cause black, other minority, and disadvantaged offenders to be treated more harshly than white and privileged offenders. All use criminal history variables that are inflated for black and other minority offenders by deliberate and implicit bias, racially disparate practices, profiling, and drug law enforcement that targets minority individuals and neighborhoods.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationCrime and Justice
PublisherUniversity of Chicago Press
Pages439-482
Number of pages44
Edition1
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 1 2019

Publication series

NameCrime and Justice
Number1
Volume48
ISSN (Print)0192-3234
ISSN (Electronic)2153-0416

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Cite this

Tonry, M. (2019). Predictions of dangerousness in sentencing: Déjà Vu all over again. In Crime and Justice (1 ed., pp. 439-482). (Crime and Justice; Vol. 48, No. 1). University of Chicago Press. https://doi.org/10.1086/701895