Attorney Seymour James remains out front weighing in on the ongoing bail reform debate as former president of New York State Bar Association and head of The Legal Aid Society. At the Eagle forum on February 6, he described problems with risk-assessment tools, indicating that they perpetuate racial bias in the criminal justice system. These tools create a score based on a defendant’s history, measuring the risk that they will be rearrested or fail to appear in court.
“There are risk assessments used across the country and have been found to have a racial bias against the African American community,” James said. “A lot of that is based upon prior arrests and, in New York City, where stop and frisk practices existed… there were high numbers of African Americans getting arrested. Those arrests count towards the evaluation on the risk assessment,” he added.