About the Depravity Scale

Judges and juries both across the United States and in other countries who decide that a crime is “depraved,” “heinous,” or “horrible” can assign more severe sentences.  Yet there is no standardized definition for such dramatic words that courts already use.  And while we may all recognize that some crimes truly separate themselves from others, there is no standard, fair way to distinguish crimes that are the worst of the worst, or “evil.”  To minimize the arbitrariness of how courts determine the worst of crimes, and to eliminate bias in sentencing, the Depravity Scale research aims to establish societal standards of what makes a crime depraved, and to develop a standardized instrument based on specific characteristics of a crime that must be proven in order to merit more severe sentences.

This research will refine into the Depravity Standard, an objective measure based on forensic evidence.  This instrument distinguishes not who is depraved but rather, what aspects of a given crime are depraved and the degree of a specific crime's depravity.  The research will enhance fairness in sentencing, given that it is race, gender and socio-economic blind.

How you can Help

The research has already been guided by legal and scientific study.  Here you will find a two part survey study that directly involves you as a citizen, potential juror and community member in establishing societal standards of what makes a crime depraved.  This study is being used to determine the intents, actions, and attitudes of a given crime that should be factored into decisions about its depravity.  In addition, you participate in an exercise to refine the relative weight of each of these potential qualities of depravity.  All members of the general public are urged to participate and given equal influence, as in a vote.  This is the first project ever developed that invites citizens’ direct input to forensic science research, and the first project ever developed in which citizens shape future criminal sentencing standards.

Your perspectives on depraved crime should be included in the Depravity Standard.  Therefore, we ask that you participate in this landmark project.  Thank you for your interest.  Want to learn more?  Review the FAQ.

Participate in the Depravity Scale Study

Now, you can have a say in the criminal sentences of tomorrow.  Please do.  It only takes about 30 minutes for you to have a big impact on your justice system – your input counts, as much as anyone’s!

Whether you work within the system or not, we need your input to help distinguish those crimes that are truly the worst of the worst.

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