An Evaluation of the Youth Assessment and Screening Instrument (YASI): Examining Alignment between YASI-Based Sentencing Recommendations and Sentencing, As Well As the Occurrence of Racial Disproportionalities



Davis, Lynnea

Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title



Many criminal legal agencies consider the use of validated risk and needs assessments (RNAs) best practice (Latessa & Lovins, 2010). Over the last few years, youth court agencies across the country began to adopt pre-sentence RNAs. Probation officers (POs) typically conduct pre-sentence RNAs in between adjudication and sentencing. POs present judges with sentencing recommendations for youths based on their YASI scores. However, judges have discretion in deciding whether to order exactly what was recommended or not to. Despite the widespread use of pre-sentence RNAs, little research examines how judges use pre-sentence reports. The primary goal of this thesis is to examine how judges’ sentencing decisions align with the sentencing recommendations arising from pre-sentence RNAs, as well as whether factors such as race influence judges’ decisions to order less punishment, more punishment, or the exact sentence(s) recommended. This project uses two years of data from a youth court agency located in Northern Virginia that uses a pre-sentence RNA to inform sentencing decisions. Results suggest that the judges strictly adhered to sentencing recommendations most of the time. However, when judges deviated from sentencing recommendations, they tended to order more punishment rather than less punishment. No significant race differences in alignment between recommendations and sentencing were found. Implications and directions for future research are discussed.



Risk assessment, Disproportionality, Sentence recommendations, Youth legal system