Where Is Colorado Public Safety Director Stan Hilkey On Pretrial Risk Assessments Now?

Where Is Colorado Public Safety Director Stan Hilkey On Pretrial Risk Assessments Now?

Known supporter of the Pretrial Justice Institute (“PJI”) and their policies of pretrial risk assessments and supervision of pretrial defendants is none other than Colorado Department of Public Safety Director Stan Hilkey.  Hilkey has written op-eds on PJIs various websites, spoken at PJI conferences and sponsored events, and advocated for the advancement of PJI’s policies in Mesa County and within Colorado since he took over at the Colorado Department of Public Safety.  In fact, one need not look too far through the Colorado Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice (CCJJ) minutes to realize that SB 20-161 builds a pretrial risk assessment regulatory and funding kingdom designed to supervise and direct local and county bail policies, designed by Director Hilkey, over which Director Hilkey will indeed preside.

The Pretrial Justice Institute, however, broke decades of tradition, and issued a statement on February 7, 2020 condemning the use of pretrial risk assessments and calling for the elimination of pretrial risk assessments.

“We now see that pretrial risk assessment tools, designed to predict an individual’s appearance in court without a new arrest, can no longer be a part of our solution for building equitable pretrial justice systems.” – Pretrial Justice Institute, February 7, 2020

Director Hilkey, however, has always been a big proponent of pretrial risk assessments:

“By concentrating on a person’s risk to re-offend in the future and determining this risk through the use of validated risk assessment tools, we can begin the process of working to reduce future crime by that person. Understanding risk

Stan Hilkey

in this context and mastering our system’s response to different levels of risk must become as familiar to us as determining probable cause to arrest.”

The first hallmark of a highly functioning evidence-based system is risk assessment: the use of academic and scientific risk assessment instruments to determine someone’s risk to commit future crime. This work is not easy. The instruments must be validated according to the population on which they are being used. This means tracking offenders over time to determine if we are able to predict with accuracy someone’s propensity to commit more crime. When assessing risk, individuals can be categorized into a low to high risk scale. This sets the stage for decision-makers to use the research on which corrective actions and types of supervision are the most suitable based on their risk level.”

So, where is Director Hilkey on pretrial risk assessment now that all support from the academic, advocacy, and intellectual community has evaporated?  Is the science not junk simply because he and some researchers at a local university say it is not junk science?  In fact, does Director Hilkey disagree with the recommendations of the Pretrial Justice Institute that the expansion of pretrial risk assessment is not part of the solution?

Finally, we must think that Governor Polis will not endorse the needless spending on a statewide expansion of pretrial risk assessment that is at best a harmful waste of money better spent elsewhere and at worse an unfunded mandate and the trammeling of local discretion.

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