Sunday, July 10, 2022

URSP Student Ashley Rodriguez Examines the Effects of Presentation of Pretrial Risk Probabilities on Pretrial Release Decisions

Jurisdictions across the U.S. are increasingly using risk assessment tools to standardize every defendant’s risk to community safety which informs pretrial decision-making. One often overlooked area of risk assessment research is how risk assessment information is communicated to decision-makers.

The goal of my project is to examine whether presenting risk assessment information as a fixed or variable probability effects pretrial decision-making. Under the supervision of my mentor, Dr. Evan Lowder, I created eight vignettes to simulate the information a typical pretrial actor would receive during a pretrial hearing. These vignettes varied by risk assessment score and whether the offense was violent. I created one questionnaire for all participants to answer. I uploaded my vignettes and questionnaire to Qualtrics. Next, I recruited judges, pretrial officers, defense attorneys, and prosecutors through locating publicly available contact information for their offices or through professional associations.

An average day this half of the semester involves me continuing to recruit more participants in order to increase my sample size and to obtain a more geographically representative sample. I am also in the process of perfecting an R script to clean and graph the data and creating a Stata script to analyze the data. Finally, I am refining my manuscript to hopefully send to publication.

I fell in love in research when I began working with Dr. Lowder on my own independent research project and with other projects within the Early Justice Strategies Lab. I decided a year ago that I wanted to do research permanently which led me to applying to various criminology doctoral programs last semester. I used an enhanced version of this project’s proposal as my writing sample to these various schools to illustrate my desire to conduct research. I believe that this project was one of many factors that led me to my admission to numerous funded criminology doctoral programs. Through conducting this research project this semester, I will have a stronger skillset and overall experience when I begin my doctoral journey next semester.