Case Studies

National Institute of Criminal Justice’s RAST

Risk Assessment and Sentencing Tool or RAST is a sophisticated data analytics engine that helps classify offenders as low-, medium-, and high-risk and makes targeted sentencing recommendations based on a host of case-specific factors. The RAST canvasses large data repositories across multiple states and jurisdictions, accounting for both static and dynamic factors. Static factors are unchangeable circumstances related to crimes and offenders, such as offense type, current age, criminal history, and age at first arrest. Dynamic factors, sometimes called criminogenic factors, can be mediated by interventions and include attitude, associates, substance use, and antisocial personality patterns.

The RAST is more advanced and more useful to judges, juries, and parole boards in three specific ways. First, since the Department of Justice’s National Institute of Justice administers it at the federal level, it relies on an exceptionally large, nationwide data set. Second, the data is continually reassessed for its predictive validity: It is reviewed annually to determine how often RAST correctly classifies offenders, accounts for static and dynamic factors, and makes effective sentencing decisions as measured by the rate of recidivism. Finally, RAST differs from traditional risk assessment tools because it takes into account more than answers to questionnaires. Static and dynamic factors are used in combination with specific, real-time data such as an offender’s behavior and location.

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