Hi Diana. Good for you for working on the court reports. This is increasingly happening across the country. In some jurisdictions they reduced their adult presentence reports to two pages in length in part because they realized that too much information can be distracting, running the risk that the sentencing decision will result in a focus on factors that are not major contributors toward future crime. It’s not that some of these other (non-criminogenic) factors are irrelevant, but instead that criminogenic factors have more impact on future criminal behavior. Hence the adage “less is more” when it comes to focusing on what matters most.
I am not aware of any research that specifically gets at your point as to whether more information in a court report is detrimental to the desired outcome. What I can offer, however, is the following:
A report by the NCSC on how risk and need instruments are used in courts. Although it has an adult focus, you would need to review it carefully to find out if anything would be helpful to your situation.
An article by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Missouri and Chair of the Missouri Sentencing Advisory Commission. Look at page 46 which may be of particular relevance.
There is science in other fields that is also instructive. For example in his book, Blink, Malcom Gladwell describes an algorithm to predict heart attacks used at the Cook County Hospital. The conclusion drawn was that asking more questions and running more tests was not an advantage and in fact oftentimes “less is more,” even when trying to understand a complex issue such as chest pain.
Perhaps other Forum members can make further contributions to this discussion.
I am reaching out in hopes someone can provide some support or insight to help us work with our stakeholders regarding our new court report format. This new court format is now more in line with the YLS assessment and focuses on the key criminogenic needs and 6 months of supervision. One or more of our stakeholders are asking to have more and more information, such as all of the D&A and MH history, any and all suicide attempts, complete family back ground (who is living in the home, criminal history, their own D&A and MH issues, etc..). Does anyone have any thoughts on how we can be responsive to stakeholders without sharing information that can lead to non-criminogenic solutions?