As recent and historical events attest, racial and ethnic disparities are widely engrained into the justice system. Scholars and policymakers have raised concerns that risk assessment instruments may exacerbate these disparities. While it is critical that risk instruments be scrutinized for racial bias, some concerns, though well-meaning, have gone beyond the evidence. This presentation will cover what it means for an instrument to be ‘biased’ and the current research on racial bias in risk instruments. It will conclude with research and suggestions related to how to minimize disparities through the use of validated risk assessment instruments.
Gina Vincent, Ph.D. is an Associate Professor at the Implementation Science & Practice Advances Research Center (iSPARC) and Co-Director of the Law & Psychiatry Program at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. She also is President of the National Youth Screening and Assessment Partners (NYSAP), a technical assistance center that works with juvenile justice agencies in their selection and implementation of screening and assessment instruments. Dr. Vincent has received funding from NIMH, NIDA, the MacArthur Foundation, OJJDP, and NIJ for studies relevant to implementation of risk for reoffending instruments, and mental health and substance abuse among youth involved in the juvenile justice system. She has over 70 publications and over 100 presentations to international, national, and local conferences in the areas of validation of risk assessment, implementing risk/needs assessment in juvenile justice, callous-unemotional traits, and mental health symptoms.