My son received a letter from the DA’s office to have a COMPAS assessment done. It’s an assessment that the dept of corrections in my state has Have any of you heard of this as I’m a little wary of this as they state my son has a choice on whether or not to go through this assessment. We meet with the public defender tomorrow so just want to get some opinions from all of you regarding this assessment before this meeting. Thanks so much!
I had not heard of this - but have heard about the concept. Here is more info for everyone about COMPAS:
The DOC uses COMPAS as its statewide automated risk and needs assessment and unified case planning system. This actuarial risk assessment system contains offender information specifically designed to determine their risk and needs and inform dynamic case plans that will guide the offender throughout his or her lifecycle in the criminal justice system. The lifecycle is a framework for how an offender moves through the Wisconsin criminal justice system and the decision points informed by COMPAS along the way. From the time of arrest through eventual discharge, DOC will use the lifecycle as a framework for establishing meaningful practices and interventions across jurisdictions.
and more analysis on these types of instruments:
How We Analyzed the COMPAS Recidivism Algorithm
This is what I read as well from the WI DOC website- which is the state we live in. I wonder if any other states are doing this?
Yes - it looks like it (or something like it) is being used all over the country. You can see on this search on “COMPASS assessment” - that there are many states using it:
And there is controversy around it:
This meant that there was a fairly sizeable group of defense attorneys in attendance to find out more about Department of Corrections use of the COMPAS assessment tool in pre-sentencing investigation (PSI) reports.
Many of those attorneys registered opposition to such a use.
According to McCowan, McCann is SADO’s expert on “everything that has to do with sentencing law.” She has extensive experience arguing at the Court of Appeals and the Michigan Supreme Court, particularly about interpretations of statutory sentencing guidelines, and wrote the Defender Sentencing Book and the Defender Sentencing Guidelines Manual Annotated.
Also present at the Auburn Hills site was Sonja B. Starr, a University of Michigan Law School professor whose article, “Evidence-Based Sentencing and the Scientific Rationalization of Discrimination,” is just a few weeks away from publication in the Stanford Law Review. McCowan confessed, “We have pretty brazenly stolen from that paper.”
McCann noted at the outset that the term “evidence-based” in reference to such assessment tools may be counterintuitive. “What it is not is about the evidence in your case,” she said. “What it does refer to is the empirical research on factors predicting criminal recidivism or violent behavior.”
COMPAS is a computer software tool, involving a set of questions (137 in the case of adult males) that a probation agent must ask each offender as part of completing the PSI. The answer to those questions are then processed through a computer by the for-profit company who licenses COMPAS, Northpointe Inc.
According to Northpointe’s website, “COMPAS is composed of 22 different scales that empirical research has identified as predictive of future behavior. The 22 scales are grouped into five main categories: criminal involvement, relationships/life-styles, personality/attitudes, family, and social exclusion. COMPAS assesses three categories of risk: recidivism, violence, and failure to appear at a court hearing.”
There have been independent evaluations (it looks like) on how the Compas Assessment works for people with mental illness.
Here is one such evaluation:
Evidence-Based Risk Assessment in a Mental Health Court: A Validation Study of the COMPAS Risk Assessment
This study examines the validity of the COMPAS with offenders who have a serious mental illness. A widely used risk-needs assessment tool, the COMPAS was found to be a good predictor of re-arrest with this population, although it was more effective in distinguishing low-risk offenders from all others than in identifying those who pose a medium as opposed to a high risk of re-arrest. Overall, approximately two-thirds of study-participants were classified as low risk. At the same time, more than half of the sample scored in the high range on the important needs domains of substance abuse, criminal personality, and criminal thinking.
The study discusses potential implications for using the COMPAS with mentally-ill individuals.
It sounds like the COMPAS Assessments are biased against african american offenders:
Thank you for the great information! I have some reading to do.
Personally, I have found it best to cooperate with the court and system…
But we don’t have COMPAS here, just a different racist and classist assessment.
Try to get your son’s lawyer to request a psychiatric assessment as part of this process.
Does the CTY pdoc and hospital pdoc assessments count or should he have a separate doc assess tied to the criminal case? At the public defenders office (just to fill out eligibility paperwork) the clerk said this COMPAS assessment is before charges are filed? I’m so confused by all of this as there are no charges showing up yet in the state database by anyone?
I’ve read over this & gave it some thought.
I don’t think I’d agree to be assessed using this model if I had a mental illness.
It sounds like it could lead to more conviction time instead of treatment - as in they are more concerned about repeat offenses than helping someone get better.
I agree. This makes me nervous and am not sure if a public defender is a good enuf lawyer to deal with this as per the CTY HHS & crisis staff this COMPAS is normally only used for drug/AODA clients.