It is one of the euphemisms, often used by those who want to reduce prison populations, to justify early release, but when examined more closely, the term can be deadly and misleading, as this post from Crime & Consequences reveals.
“Maxine Bernstein has this story in the Oregonian: “A slide shown to the Governor’s Public Safety Commission this summer categorized one quarter of the offenders who were sent to Oregon prisons in 2011 as “low risk.”
“That’s fairly typical of the claims we hear all the time from the soft-on-crime crowd, trying to convince us we are wasting money and committing injustice by locking up people who neither need nor deserve to be locked up. But it didn’t sound credible to Clackamas County DA John Foote, and he poked beneath the surface to see how this classification was done. He got the list and asked his fellow DAs check them out.
“The list compiled was chilling: 57 committed a homicide or tried to kill someone; 78 assaulted someone, many in cases of domestic violence; 53 had committed robberies. Two were on death row, and 21 faced life sentences.
“The offenders had been deemed low-risk based on a new actuarial tool Oregon adopted this month that’s being used to determine an offender’s likelihood of committing a new crime. Called the Public Safety Checklist, it considers an inmate’s age, gender and adult criminal history in Oregon. [Emphasis added.]
“Wow. A risk classification instrument that takes no account whatever of crimes committed in other jurisdictions or as a juvenile!