AG Modifications To CJ Reform Policies: Part 2

by | Nov 10, 2017 | Blog, Criminal Law, New Jersey

Anti-Drug ProfiteeringThe second change to the Attorney General’s Directive involved changing all references to the “Risk Assessment” tools to refer to them as “Public Safety Assessment” tools. This change is reminiscent of the “new speak” referenced in George Orwell’s famous novel, 1984. The novel referred to the power of language and the Government’s tendency to replace certain words or phrases to achieve their ends. George Carlin touched on the theme as well in one of his classic stand-up bits. Examples include: referring to the deaths of innocent civilians in wartime as “collateral damage” and referring to being shell-shocked as “suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.”

Here the Government’s alleged concern for “public safety” as opposed to “risk” is almost certainly intended to influence courts to detain pretrial or to impose onerous pretrial conditions on defendants who are released. Otherwise, we are made to believe that the safety of the public will be endangered.

The third change added the following section regarding Domestic Violence cases:

4.2.l.b Ontario Domestic Assault Risk Assessment Score Values.

In addition to the PSA, police officers are required in certain domestic violence cases to complete the Ontario Domestic Assault Risk Assessment (ODARA utilizing a Scoring Form, which has been prescribed by the Director of the Division of Criminal Justice. See Section 4.6 (discussing ODARA in depth). Unlike the PSA, which is an automated process, the ODARA is administered “manually” by law enforcement officers through an interview with the victim and/or others and a review of the defendant’s criminal history and related records (e.g., prior police reports, Computer Aided Dispatch reports, etc.).

The ODARA assessment is comprised of 13 separate items including, among others, the victim’s concern for future assault, whether there are children in the relationship, whether the victim was pregnant during an assault, substance use by either party, and domestic and non-domestic criminal history of the arrestee. Each item is scored using a “1” fora “yes” response and a “0” for a “no” response. The raw score is the sum of the items, which ranges from 0 to 13.