Criminal Justice Experts Call on Attorney General Barr to reject use of new Pattern Risk Assessment Tool
We join more than 220 leading national organizations concerning the prioritization of home confinement in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. In particular, we are concerned with the use of PATTERN — a risk assessment system built as a result of the First Step Act — as a factor in determining which currently incarcerated individuals may receive “priority treatment” in transfer and release decisions.
COVID-19 is spreading rapidly in cramped U.S. prisons and jails, where hundreds of thousands of vulnerable people face sickness and death. Already, hundreds of prisoners and staff have tested positive, and the first federal prisoner died from COVID-19 on March 22, 2020. This is a health emergency that urgently requires expedited releases from incarceration to enable social distancing and to protect people in prison and jail, correctional staff and communities.
According to data furnished by the Department of Justice in February, individuals classified as minimum risk are the smallest cohort of the federal prison population, compared to the groups identified as low, medium or high. Also, based on an analysis of PATTERN using a sample of the federal prison population, and reported by the National Institutes of Justice, only 7% of Black men in the sample were classified as minimum, compared to 30% of White men. This indicator alone should give the Department of Justice great pause in moving forward with the memo’s directive.