What is the Indiana Risk Assessment System or IRAS?

When people are being sentenced to a state crime in Indiana to a Level 6 or higher, many times courts will order what is referred to as a Pre-Sentence Investigation or “PSI.” For a closer look at what is contained within a PSI, please click here . Within that PSI, towards the back of the packet, defendants will see a bar chart that has different levels of risk listed, broken down by category, as follows:

(1) Criminal History,
(2) Education/Employment/Financials,
(3) Family and Support,
(4) Neighborhood Problems,
(5) Substance Abuse,
(6) Peer Associations, and
(7) Criminal Attitudes and Behavior Problems.

Each category is evaluated and investigated by the probation officer conducting the interview of the defendant in preparation for sentencing and completion of the PSI. Ultimately, after the interview is concluded and information is gathered on the defendant, the probation officer will then label each of these categories as being Low, Moderate or High.

Here is an example of what the chart might look like on someone with a low risk in all categories:

But one might ask, “Low, Medium, or High – what?” The assessment tool is very subjective, though allegedly based on objective standards, and is used to determine whether or not the defendant has a risk of recidivism — a fancy word for “a risk to reoffend in the future.” When the State of Indiana moved to Evidence-based-practices post-2010, judges moved to relying more on PSI’s and tangible evidence contained within those reports in determining what was an appropriate sentence for a particular defendant rather than the earlier practice of using their “experience” and “historical practices” to determine the appropriate sentence. The PSI and IRAS was introduced to try to eliminate disparity in outcomes for defendants and to try to normalize the process of determining an appropriate sentence for a defendant based on the same evidence used to sentence every other defendant.

While the system is not perfect, it has helped even out what judges consider in sentencing a defendant. While Judge’s still use aggravating and mitigating circumstances, often times they refer to evidence contained in the PSI and IRAS in coming to their final conclusion, rather than relying solely on evidence introduced by the state or the defense counsel.

The concern people have raised recently is that probation officers actually choose whether to label someone Low, Medium, or High based on their answers in a single, high-stakes interview. Because they are human, they can make a mistake, mis-hear, misinterpret, or be swayed by emotion as opposed to facts. By manipulating the levels, they can ultimately control fate by making someone appear more or less likely to reoffend — a factor that is a huge consideration for judges.

Given the risk of disparity of opinion by probation officers, it is hugely important for lawyers to evaluate these final conclusions and challenge them if they seem wrong or misguided. At sentencing the judge will ask the prosecutor and the defendant if they challenge anything in the final PSI or IRAS. If those issues aren’t challenged on the spot, they are waived. That’s why having an experienced lawyer is so incredibly important. It can be the difference between a good result and a DOC-heavy result.

For more information on IRAS, click here

The experienced Indianapolis criminal Attorneys at Banks & Brower can help you understand the PSI and IRAS process. Should you have questions, do not hesitate to contact us 24/7/365 at info@banksbrower.com or by phone at 317-870-0019.