In this article, the author outlines the significant flaws of the sex offender risk assessment instrument. A second article to be published later will explain why these deficiencies are not adequately corrected by court departure determinations.
Convicted sex offenders under New York law must have their risk of reoffense assessed by courts under the Sex Offender Registration Act (“SORA” or “Megan’s Law”) with courts determining whether offenders are at low, moderate or high risk to re-offend. The rankings not only determine the length and intrusiveness of sex offender registration and community notification, which often last for life, but vital collateral matters, like whether offenders may live within 1,000 feet of a school, receive Section 8 housing vouchers or live in public housing.
Courts are required to base their risk-level determinations on an offender’s scores on a Risk Assessment Instrument (the “RAI”) created by a state entity, the Board of Examiners of Sex Offenders (the “Board”). The RAI provides a presumptive risk level which courts can then depart up or down from if there are factors the RAI doesn’t adequately consider. There is little evidence, however, that the RAI has any predictive validity