How Colorado Criminal Offenders Are Sentenced – Judges Assess Risk
How Colorado Criminal Offenders Are Sentenced – Judges Assess Risk – This article addresses the complex interrelationship between crime and punishment. Colorado judges are searching for methods to support the sentencing decisions they make and the tools being developed by criminologists across the county can be used by experienced Colorado criminal defense lawyers to persuade judges to impose fair sentences.
Once you understand the assessment questions – the experienced lawyer will craft an argument – using these so called objective tools – to persuade a judge into a lenient sentence.
Risk/Needs Assessment Sentencing
Before sentencing an individual – a Colorado sentencing judge must apply certain factors to the individual case.. These factors are called criminogenic factors and are used to predict whether the person will re-offend (recidivate). Judges ask themselves certain questions before passing sentences. What follows is intended to give the reader insight into the judge’s decisionmaking process.
The Needs vs. Risk Analysis
Predicting Criminal Behavior (Risk) – Past Behavioral History (Static Risk Factors)
What is the defendant’s criminal background?
How well does the defendant do under supervision?
Has the defendant been in treatment before? How did the defendant perform in treatment?
What things have led to successes and failures in the past?
Does the defendant have a drug/alcohol history?
Does the defendant have a history of mental health problems?
Predicting Criminal Behavior (Needs) – Current Environment (Dynamic Risk Factors)
Is the defendant employed and employable?
Is the defendant educated?
How is the defendant s financial status?
How connected is the defendant to family?
What pro-social activities does the defendant get involved in?
Where/what does the defendant call home? What is home like?
What is the defendant’s peer group like? Does he have any pro-social influence in his/her peer group?
Does the defendant have current involvement with alcohol/drugs?
Does the defendant have current mental health problems?
What is the defendant’s current attitude and orientation to the conventional norm? Towards the system? Towards supervision?
Arguing Against Jail Or Prison – Persuading A Judge To NOT Impose Incarceration
Arguing against jail requires the criminal defense lawyer to address these issues:
Does this defendant have antisocial attitudes?
Does This Defendant Rationalize his crime or have negative attitudes toward the law?
Id there a history of antisocial Behavior?
Does he have antisocial peer associations?
Is he isolated from prosocial persons?
Is he impulsive, risk taking, lacking in empathy, pleasure seeking, aggressive or narcissistic?
Does he abuse controlled substances?
Are there strained family or marital relationships?
What is his education/employment?
Arguing For A Non – Jail Sentence Means Giving The Judge Alternatives
The kinds of issues that should be addressed in a criminal defense lawyer’s sentencing argument should include:
What is the local capacity to supervise the offender in the community?
What is the availability of non incarceration based “intermediate” sanctions?
What is the availability of treatment services that can address the criminogenic needs of this client?
What conditions of community supervision can be imposed short of a jail or prison sentence?
Independent Research Supports Alternatives To Jail and or Prison
A study performed in 2002 of 117 separate studies and over 442,000 offenders established that
The length of time incarcerated had no impact on whether the defendant committed additional crimes.
Choosing an institutional over a community-based sanction had no impact on whether the defendant committed additional crimes.
BUT – Longer time periods in prison associated WERE associated with increased recidivism (repeat crimes)
(Smith, P., Goggin, C. & Gendreay, P (2002). The effects of prison sentences and intermediate sanctions on recidivism)
Another Study Supported Reasons Why Defendants Should NOT Be Jail or Prison
The impact of intense correctional interventions such as jail or prison on low risk offenders (most of those sentenced in the Colorado Criminal Justice System) does not decrease and may actually increase recidivism rates.
The exposure of low risk offenders to high risk offenders (so called – antisocial peers) actually increases the likelihood of future – repeat or new crimes.
The disruption of the factors that make defendants low risk such as family, employment, and positive attitudes can actually harm low risk offenders.
Evidence Based Practices Prove That Non-Punitive Sanctions Result In Better Outcomes
Evidence-based practices mean 1) there is a definable outcome, 2) the outcome is measurable; and 3) the outcome is defined according to practical realities such as recidivism, victim satisfaction, and the like.
Risk Needs Assessment sentencing uses Evidence Based Proactices
Because it is human to over-estimate risk and because predicting risk without objective instruments, it is well known that wrong headed sentences are often the rule. Humans will be wrong 2/3 of the time while risk – needs assessment instruments actuarial instruments will be right 2/3 of the time. Objective and empirically validated assessments are critical to overturn subjective evaluations and poorly reasoned sentences.
Conclusion – How Colorado Criminal Offenders Are Sentenced – Judges Assess Risk
Risk and need assessment information should be used by Colorado criminal defense lawyers in helping the sentencing judge to make a sentencing decision that informs public safetyconsiderations but are tied directly to the specific offenders actual risk to the community.
A risk and needs assessment tool aids the sentencing judge in crafting terms and conditions of community supervision that enhance overall risk reduction and safe management in the community so as to avoid over reaction and lengthy jail and or prison sentences.
How Colorado Criminal Offenders Are Sentenced – Judges Assess Risk
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: H. Michael Steinberg – Email The Author – A Denver Colorado Domestic Violence Criminal Defense Lawyer – or call his office at 303-627-7777 during business hours – or call his cell if you cannot wait and need his immediate assistance – 720-220-2277.
H. Michael Steinberg is an aggressive Colorado criminal defense lawyer with over 30 years of Colorado Criminal Law experience. He is not looking to negotiate a plea in every case. He is looking for the best possible outcome, based on all the facts and evidence, so that you can get on with your life.
“I believe that I can help people who are in need and deliver the kind of quality legal service to clients they expect.” – H. Michael Steinberg
Please call H. Michael if you have any questions about the topic in this case – How Colorado Criminal Offenders Are Sentenced – Judges Assess Risk.