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Needs assessment

This study examined the validity, reliability, equity, and cost of nine juvenile justice risk assessment instruments. Though many researchers and practitioners believe that risk assessment is critical to improving decision making in the juvenile justice system, the range of options currently available makes the selection of the most appropriate instrument for each jurisdiction a difficult choice. This study was designed to provide a comprehensive examination of how several risk assessments perform in practice (p. 1). Findings are reported: according to eight risk assessment instruments; and through a comparison of results across jurisdictions and assessments by way of reliability, validity, equity, revised risk assessment instruments constructed in the study, and efficiency and cost. A discussion covers: instruments developed for general use; risk instruments developed for a specific agency; and comments from Advisory Board members and responses from the authors of this report. Risk assessment should be a simple process that can be easily understood and articulated. This study’s findings show that simple, actuarial approaches to risk assessment can produce the strongest results. Adding factors with relatively weak statistical relationships to recidivism—including dynamic factors and criminogenic needs—can result in reduced capacity to accurately identify high-, moderate-, and low-risk offenders (p. vi).

A Comparison of Risk Assessment Instruments in Juvenile Justice Cover

The development of new risk/needs assessments specifically designed for female offenders is discussed. This report is comprised of these sections:

  • The case for women's needs;
  • Development of new assessments;
  • Construction validation research;
  • Full instruments;
  • Implementation considerations;
  • Obtaining the gender-responsive assessments;
  • And conclusion.
Achieving Accurate Pictures of Risk and Identifying Gender Responsive Needs: Two New Assessments for Women Offenders Cover

This videoconference discusses issues regarding the collection, analysis, and use of information to assess an agency's programs, services, and operations and to serve as a base for policymaking. Some topics addressed include:

  • Selecting areas on which to collect information;
  • Assessing department and/or agency needs and developing appropriate responses;
  • Managing evaluation resources;
  • And developing and defending result-based budgeting.
Better Corrections Through Information Cover

“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

“A growing number of juvenile justice experts are suggesting a new, potentially more effective approach to reducing recidivism: first identify a youth’s risk of re-offending; then match services to his or her specific risk factors and responsiveness to specific types of interventions. This study examined the implementation of risk/needs assessment tools in six juvenile probation offices in two states, and what effects it had on the practices of the probation officers” (p. 1). Sections of this brief are: background; dynamic risk factors for delinquency; the implementation study; whether probation officers conduct risk/needs assessments reliably; whether the use of risk assessment changes juvenile probation officers’ practices and perceptions of risk; whether the use of risk assessment in juvenile probation lead to changes in the way youth are handled; use of assessments in decision-making by juvenile probation officers; change in post-adjudication, out-of-home placement rates; whether the use of risk assessment changes recidivism; why sound implementation of risk assessment is important; implications for policy and practice. The use of assessments results in suitable dispositions, often at lower levels of restriction. The result is better utilization of resources for high-risk youth with no increase in re-offending rates.

Can Risk Assessment Improve Juvenile Justice Practices? Cover

Results from a survey "designed to obtain information on the procedures used to classify high-risk inmates, particularly those in protective custody or administrative segregation, and inmates with mental illness or medical problems" are presented (p. xvi). Six chapters follow an executive summary:

  • Introduction;
  • Overview of risk assessment;
  • Risk assessment systems and instruments;
  • Findings of the National Survey of the Management of High-Risk Inmates;
  • Identification and review of model programs;
  • And issues and recommendations.


Classification of High-Risk and Special Management Prisoners: A National Assessment of Current Practices Cover

An overview of the work done by collaborative partnerships to design and validate gender-responsive risk and needs assessments for female offenders is provided. This article discusses issues surrounding female offender classification and the current National Institute of Corrections (NIC) study regarding gender-responsive approaches to risk and needs assessment.

Classification of Women Offenders: Gender-Responsive Approach to Risk/Needs Assessment Cover

"One of the most important elements in any service delivery system is the identification of needs, risks and strengths of children, youth and families. The accurate screening and assessment of these individuals and family systems are necessary to develop appropriate, individualized service packages. The use of valid screening and assessment tools will assure that safety risks (either to the public or the youth) are identified accurately and appropriate interventions are implemented, that urgent needs are recognized and dealt with quickly, and that services provided will likely result in positive outcomes … Specifically, the decision to include each instrument is based on the following: 1) The instrument must be directly related to behavioral health, trauma and/or risk classification; and 2) The instrument must be age and developmentally appropriate; and 3) The instrument must be quantitative; and 4) The instrument must be researched-based; and 5) The instrument must have empirical evidence that supports its utility. All screening and assessment instruments in this reference guide have acceptable reliability and validity data associated with them and all have, to some degree, been independently evaluated" (p. 4). There are 12 juvenile screening instruments and 11 juvenile assessment instruments described. Information provided for each instrument is: a brief description of the instrument; the Colorado agency using it; the juvenile population being targeted; the instrument's purpose; when the instrument is administered; the decisions that can be made using the instrument; skills needed by those who give the assessment or screening; training required by this person; cost; and contact information with website (if available).

Colorado Reference Guide: Juvenile Screening and Assessment Instruments: Behavioral Health, Trauma, and Risk/Classification Cover

"This guide is intended to provide tribal probation personnel with information on how the screening and assessment process can facilitate and promote offender accountability and long-term behavior change" (p. 2). Sections comprising this publication are: community corrections in context; the screening and assessment process; benefits of screening and assessment tools; choosing a tool; challenges to using assessment instruments; using screening and assessment results; and conclusion. Appendixes describe various screening and assessment tools and domestic violence assessment tools.

Desktop Guide for Tribal Probation Personnel: The Screening and Assessment Process Cover

“The use of risk assessment instruments in juvenile justice systems across the country is growing rapidly. Advocates should be aware of how they can be used most effectively to avoid unnecessary incarceration and improve case planning for youth” (p. 4). This fact sheet explains: what a risk assessment tool is; the need to use them; how to choose the right risk assessment instrument; how to implement carefully following your choice; and making sure to gather and analyze data regarding the tool. For more information regarding risk assessment of juveniles, be sure to refer to “Risk Assessment in Juvenile Justice: A Guidebook for Implementation” by the Models for Change Initiative (NIC accession number 027092).

Doing It Right: Risk Assessment in Juvenile Justice Cover


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