Newell: "We want answers" on mind-boggling pre-trial risk assessments

The public needs to know who's behind this

Newell Normand
June 19, 2019 - 4:55 pm

It would appear that the much-maligned pre-trial risk assessment matrix may be in need of a tune-up.

Yesterday it was Richard Sansbury; today, a new assessment comes out for his alleged accomplice, Alan Parsons, also accused of using guns, gloves and hoods to tie up CVS employees and rob the drug store of medications and money. His risk level assessment mirrors that of Sansbury - he's a Risk Level One, meaning if he is able to post bail, he is free to roam the streets of New Orleans without any supervision whatsoever.

Newell's opening segment Wednesday begins with the story of another criminal, Tony Thomas, who was arrested for armed robbery, resisting an officer, and possession of a firearm by a felon. Thomas was taken into custody by NOPD, and the risk assessment matrix found him to be a Risk Level One. The difference between Thomas, and the cartoonish team of Sansbury and Parsons?

Tony Thomas has priors. Not a few. So why isn't his Risk Level any higher?

Thomas has been arrested for possession of cocaine, contributing to the deliquency of juveniles, another cocaine charge, illegal possession of a weapon, possession of drug paraphernalia. But after his latest arrest, his Risk Level didn't change at all.

"So one has to wonder," Newell asks, "If you're Risk Level One, you get out, you re-offend, you're involved in a violent crime - how is it that these charges don't trump the previous charges, and you at least move to a Risk Level Two? Fortunately, again, common sense prevailed here, and we should give a shout out to the Judge, because he set an appropriate bond. But how can you be a Risk Level one if you've been given a chance, you come back and you're involved in these three charges?"

"Now I don't know what it's gonna take to get people to wake up!" Newell continued. "None of this is making any sense to me. It only makes sense if your primary and ultimate goal is to have nobody in jail, and to have all pre-trial detainees running around out there without any sanctions."

Listen to the segment below.

Newell says the the public needs to understand how these things work so they can make certain that they aren't putting people in positions of power who aren't going to do the right thing when it comes to public safety.

"The squeaky wheel's gonna get the oil. The more information you have, the more empowered you are to ask appropiate questions of appropriate leaders; most of the folks that I know in the criminal justice system just don't think this is a safe practice for the community." 

"I don't profess to know it all, but one thing I do know is you can't just look at the instant charge of the instant crime of the instant criminal and determine whether or not that individual is a risk to the community. You have to look at the whole of the life of that individual, what he's about... does he even have a place to live? That's a nice place to start, or is he just meandering the streets of New Orleans leeching off of everybody?"

"If he is," Newell finished, "That's not a Risk Level One. Not in my book!"


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