The amended section 4.6.1 of the Attorney General’s Directive regarding criminal justice reform reads:
4.6.1 The Need for a Risk Assessment Tool in Domestic Violence Cases. The automated pretrial risk-assessment and the resulting Public Safety Assessment (PSA) do not account for certain risk factors that are widely recognized as predictive of the likelihood of a domestic violence offender’s risk of re-offending. As such, the developer of the PSA has recommended evaluating the utility of implementing a risk assessment “trailer tool” to inform critical decisions (e.g., complaint-warrant vs. complaint-summons, release conditions, detention) in domestic violence cases. In addition, among the thirty recommendations made by the Supreme Court Ad Hoc Committee on Domestic Violence in its June 28, 2016 report was an endorsement that “New Jersey should develop a system wide, coordinated process for assessing risk and danger in domestic violence cases.” See Report of the Supreme Court Ad Hoc Committee on Domestic Violence (June 28, 2016) at Recommendation 20. The Supreme Court referred the Ad Hoc Committee’s recommendation to the Attorney General for consideration in November 2016. After considerable research and consultation with key stakeholders, the Director of the Division of Criminal Justice has designated the Ontario Domestic Assault Risk Assessment ODARA) as the risk assessment tool to be utilized by law enforcement officers in New Jersey to assist in identifying the risk of future assaults between intimate partners. Simply stated, the ODARA scores indicate how likely an abusive partner is to assault again. The ODARA is an evidence-based, validated actuarial tool that was developed for use by police in the field. Its predictive accuracy is the highest predictive effect size reported for validated domestic violence risk assessment tools. No clinical expertise is required to administer an ODARA assessment, and officers can obtain necessary information for scoring the ODARA’s 13 items during an interview with the victim and a review of the defendant’s criminal history and related records (e.g., prior police reports, Computer Aided Dispatch reports, etc.). Training can be accomplished in a relatively swift and straightforward fashion.
The phrase “widely recognized as predictive of the likelihood of a domestic violence offender’s risk of re-offending” is suspect. The same is true regarding the phrases “After considerable research and consultation with key stakeholders”. The fact that “officers can obtain necessary information for scoring the ODARA’s 13 items during an interview with the victim and a review of the defendant’s criminal history and related records (e.g., prior police reports, Computer Aided Dispatch reports, etc.)” makes it clear that the tool will rely on biased hearsay and be skewed towards pretrial detention in cases involving allegations of “domestic violence.” Note that the maximum sentence for the most common “domestic violence” offenses is six months in jail. Since most every detainee will have served that much time before their case can get to trial, the Attorney General’s change in position brings us back to the all-too-common situation that was a driving reason for the very criminal justice reforms at issue. That situation is one where a defendant is coerced into pleading guilty because a sentence of “time served” will get them home faster than an acquittal at trial.