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May 1, 2022

"Abolishing the Evidence-Based Paradigm"

The title of this post is the title of this notable new paper authored by Erin Collins now available via SSRN.  Here is its abstract:

The belief that policies and procedures should be data-driven and “evidence-based” has become criminal law’s leading paradigm for reform.  This evidence-based paradigm, which promotes quantitative data collection and empirical analysis to shape and assess reforms, has been widely embraced for its potential to cure the emotional and political pathologies that led to mass incarceration.  It has influenced reforms across the criminal procedure spectrum, from predictive policing through actuarial sentencing.  The paradigm’s appeal is clear: it promises an objective approach that lets data – not politics — lead the way and purports to have no agenda beyond identifying effective, efficient reforms.

This Article challenges the paradigm’s core claims.  It shows that the evidence-based paradigm’s objectives, its methodology, and its epistemology advance conventional assumptions about what the criminal legal system should strive to achieve, whom it should target, and whose voices and interests matter.  In other words, the evidence-based paradigm is political, and it does have an agenda.  And that agenda, informed by neoliberalism and the enduring legacy of white supremacy in the criminal legal system, strengthens — rather than challenges — the existing system.

The Article argues that, if left unchallenged, the evidence-based paradigm will continue to reproduce the system’s disparities and dysfunctions, under the veneer of scientific objectivity.  Thus, it must be abolished and replaced with a new approach that advances a true paradigm shift about the aims of criminal legal reform and the role and definition of data and empiricism in advancing that vision.

May 1, 2022 at 10:54 AM | Permalink


As a layman I have to ask, “Is the entire bar infested with such idiocy?” Judging by the papers cited in this blog, it would seem so.

I love how the phrase, “enduring legacy of white supremacy,” is presented as a incontrovertible fact with no need to actually make the case.

Posted by: TarlsQtr | May 1, 2022 12:24:37 PM

TarlQtr --

I'm happy to tell you it's not the entire bar. It's legal academia. Practicing criminal defense lawyers for the most part retain a decent grasp on reality. Not so in the academy, where getting ahead on the tenure totem pole demands publishing, and publishing demands pushing yet farther to the Left so that your proposed article is "original." The culture of the academy is now so owned by Wokeness that what counts in "scholarship" is no longer insight (to the extent it ever was) but how emphatically you denounce Amerika.

Posted by: Bill Otis | May 2, 2022 10:17:47 AM

"the enduring legacy of white supremacy in the criminal legal system"

Any paper that has the sentence above in it should be repudiated by anyone and everyone in the legal profession including teachers. Anyone who could write such a thing is too ignorant to write any thing.

Repudiate this racist nonsense being spewed under the guise of "white supremacy."

Posted by: restless94110 | May 3, 2022 4:56:11 AM

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