Risk-Based Sentencing and the Principles of Punishment

Christopher Lewis | March 26, 2022

Risk-based sentencing regimes use an offender’s statistical likelihood of returning to crime in the future to determine the amount of time he or she spends in prison. Many criminal justice reformers see this as a fair and efficient way to shrink the size of the incarcerated population, while minimizing sacrifices to public safety. But risk-based sentencing is indefensible even (and perhaps especially) by the lights of the theory that supposedly justifies it. Instead of trying to cut time in prison for those who are least likely to reoffend, officials should focus sentencing reform on the least advantaged who tend to be the most likely to reoffend.