January 30, 2020
Criminal Courts

Amicus brief on risk assessment instruments in Pennsylvania

Logan Koepke

Amicus brief

In Philadelphia Community Bail Fund v. Arraignment Court Magistrates of the First Judicial District of Pennsylvania, we filed an amicus brief with the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania arguing that the Court should not order the implementation of a pretrial risk assessment instrument as a bail reform measure in Philadelphia.

We describe the academic, technical, legal, and policy research that counsels against adopting such a tool. Pretrial risk assessment instruments are inherently flawed because they learn from, forecast, and reinforce long-standing racial disparities. Pretrial risk assessment instruments do not support the purposes of pretrial decision-making because they cannot accurately forecast danger to the community or accurately differentiate rates of reappearance — let alone do so in an unbiased way. If this Court still wishes to pursue pretrial risk assessments, any attempts to mitigate racial bias would require numerous ongoing policy controls and limitations.

Upturn Authors