Under the Cloak of Brain Science: Risk Assessments, Parole, and the Powerful Guise of Objectivity
This Note examines the adoption of two psychological risk assessment protocols used on “lifers” by the California Board of Parole Hearings in preparation for parole suitability hearings. Probation and parole agencies employ risk assessment protocols across state and federal jurisdictions to measure the likelihood that an individual will pose a danger to society if released from prison. By examining the adoption and recent reformulation of risk assessment protocols in California, this Note considers some of the myriad demands that courts and administrative agencies place on brain science. Applying the California parole process as a parable of such pressures, this Note argues that brain science has a unique capacity to supersede legal inquiry itself, and thus should only be used in legal and administrative settings with extreme caution.