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Probation & Parole - Screening & Assessment

“Most assessment systems target high-risk offenders. However, standard risk and needs assessments do not necessarily identify needs that are truly criminogenic for each individual; nor do they address responsivity. This is because these systems do not inherently identify either specific strategies and programs that reflect the learning style of the offender or approaches and programs most likely to motivate each offender to change behavior. This paper describes a comprehensive approach to assessment, developed by the National Council on Crime and Delinquency (NCCD), that successfully addresses all three objectives listed above. This methodology was originally embedded in the Client Management Classification (CMC) system and Strategies for Juvenile Supervision (SJS) assessment and supervision systems. It currently is embedded in the Correctional Assessment and Intervention System (CAIS) and Juvenile Assessment and Intervention System (JAIS) … Evaluation outcomes from six separate studies have shown that this methodology significantly reduces recidivism for both probationers and parolees and reduces institutional infractions when used in institutional settings. Results from these studies, which were conducted by different research teams in different jurisdictions across a 25-year timeframe, are summarized in this paper.” Sections included in this report are: introduction; what separates CAIS and JAIS from other assessment models; how CMC and SJS were developed; evaluations of CMC; the Texas Study, 1987; the Wisconsin Study, 1986; Council of State Governments, 2011; the emergence of CAIS and JAIS; supervision strategies; enhancing responsivity through case planning; and conclusion.

Beyond Risk and Needs Assessments Cover

"The New York City Department of Probation (DOP)—the second largest probation department in the country—is advancing a process to infuse evidence-based policies and practices (EBPP) throughout the organization … What is significant for the purpose of this story is that the Federal agencies were able to thoughtfully, strategically, respectfully, and effectively apply the right dosage of technical assistance to the moving train in a way that made the most of the investment and the capacity that BJA and NIC had to marshal for the city" (p. 3-4). This brief explains how the NYC DOP Adult Operations Division partnered with the U.S. Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) and the National Institute of Correction (NIC) to create an organizational culture within the division that was committed to using evidence-based practices. Lessons learned from this collaboration are also covered. This document is comprised of six sections: what the BJA and NIC technical assistance providers worked on with DOP, and how their work fit with other pilot programs, initiatives, and philanthropic support; what is unique about DOP from the perspective of Federal agencies that engage in technical assistance with local agencies; what is unique about what the partners brought to the table, what kind of technical assistance approach they developed together, and how it was managed and delivered; how the Federal agencies’ technical assistance advanced DOP’s EBPP goals; where New York City’s DOP evidence-based practice work is taking the department; and conclusion--what the rest of the field can learn from the DOP, BJA, and NIC technical assistance collaborative partnership, and why it does matter.

Case Study: New York City Department of Probation’s Federal Partnership Efforts: Profile of a Successful Technical Assistance Collaboration With the Bureau of Justice Assistance and the National Institute of Corrections Cover

With a court-ordered cap on the jail population and increasing budget demands, the county is now turning to data to determine how to stem the rising incarceration rates, which had been exacerbated by the 2011 Public Safety Realignment.

Arizona Judicial Branch


The offender screening tool (OST) is an assessment of the defendant’s risk to reoffend and criminogenic needs. There are 9 categories, or domains, assessed in the OST. The OST is a standardized, statewide, validated tool approved by the Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC).

Results are presented from a comprehensive Probation Review of Louisiana’s Jefferson Parish. These are especially helpful if your probation department is considering revamping operations in order to achieve better efficiency and reduced recidivism. Sections of this report include: implementation successes; history of the agency; background to the review implementation; assessing the system; prioritization of report recommendations; work plan implementation; changing a system using Probation Review elements—Element A - Program Planning and Implementation, Element B - Best Practices and Benchmarking, Element C - Performance Measurement and Client Outcomes, and Element D - Intra- and Interagency Work Processes; and conclusion. Appendixes include: Statement of Work; excerpt from the work plan; meeting inventory example; Process Evaluation—Staff Meeting; Probation Officer’s Role, Responsibilities and Duties; Criteria Sheet with Performance Measures; Graduated Response Grid; and benchmarks list. “Efforts in Jefferson Parish resulted in substantial improvements in nearly every aspect of the Probation Department activities, including reduced recidivism, reduced rates of detention, reduced probation caseloads, and increased savings.”

Probation Review Implementation: How Best Practices Meet Everyday Practices Cover

This report provides information on the use of risk and needs assessment in the criminal justice system.

The PCRA tool is an Evidence Based Practices (EBP) that guides an officer's decision about what level of risk an offender poses and what interventions would be best to reduce recidivism rates." (video running time 9:40)

When developed and used correctly, these risk/needs assessment tools can help criminal justice officials appropriately classify offenders and target interventions to reduce recidivism, improve public safety and cut costs.

The purpose of the Risk/Need Classification System and Probation Supervision is to implement a planned methodology for the assessment and supervision of the probationer to promote law-abiding behavior in the community and to reduce recidivism.

No program or intervention can be expected to work for everyone. Providing too much or the wrong kind of services not only fails to improve outcomes, but it can make outcomes worse by placing excessive burdens on some participants and interfering with their engagement in productive activities, like work or school. This is the foundation for a body of evidence-based principles referred to as risk, need, responsivity, or RNR (Andrews & Bonta, 2010). RNR is derived from decades of research demonstrating that the best outcomes are achieved in the criminal justice system when (1) the intensity of criminal justice supervision is matched to participants’ risk for criminal recidivism or likelihood of failure in rehabilitation (criminogenic risk) and (2) interventions focus on the specific disorders or conditions that are responsible for participants’ crimes (criminogenic needs) (Andrews et al., 1990, 2006; Gendreau et al., 2006; Lipsey & Cullen, 2007; Lowenkamp et al., 2006a, 2006b; Smith et al., 2009; Taxman & Marlowe, 2006). Moreover, mixing participants with different levels of risk or need in the same treatment groups or residential programs has been found to increase crime, substance use, and other undesirable outcomes, because it exposes low-risk participants to antisocial peers and values (e.g., Lloyd et al., 2014; Lowenkamp & Latessa, 2004; Lowenkamp et al., 2005; Welsh & Rocque, 2014; Wexler et al., 2004).

Despite compelling evidence validating these RNR principles, many behavioral health and criminal justice professionals misconstrue the concepts of risk, need, and responsivity, leading them to deliver the wrong services to the wrong persons and in the wrong order. Even with the best of intentions to follow evidence-based practices, many programs inadvertently waste precious resources, frustrate consumers, and deliver lackluster results. To enhance program effectiveness and efficiency, it is necessary to translate these research-based principles into terms that are familiar to many practitioners, to help them select the most appropriate interventions under the right circumstances. 

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