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).
The effectiveness of various sex offender classification instruments is investigated. This research is important in determining the best practices driving the success of sex offender management classification systems allowing you to utilize the best tool in your jurisdiction. Sections of this report include: abstract; executive summary; introduction; research design and methods; results regarding the respective abilities of nationally recommended Adam Walsh Act (AWA) classification tiers and actuarial risk assessment instruments to identify high-risk sex offenders, the risk assessment efficacy of existing state classification schemes compared to the AWA tiers and risk assessment instruments, the distribution of risk assessment scores within and across AWA tier categories, and the role of adult offender age in risk and recidivism; and discussion regarding implications for policy and practice. "The findings indicate that the current AWA classification scheme is likely to result in a system that is less effective in protecting the public than the classification systems currently implemented in the states studied. Policy makers should strongly consider substantial revisions of the AWA classification system to better incorporate evidence-based models of sex offender risk assessment and management" (p. 1).
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.
"Although the use of pretrial risk assessments has increased in recent years, the proportion of jurisdictions employing these instruments remains low, and is estimated to be no more than 10%. This low adoption rate is due in large part to the fact that existing risk assessments require that information be collected through interviews with defendants. Conducting these interviews and verifying the information is a time-consuming and resource-intensive process that many jurisdictions cannot afford" (p. 3). There were only eight multi-jurisdictional pretrial risk-assessments being used in 2012, all of which depended on defendant interviews. The foundation for an effective non-interview-based risk assessment was the Kentucky Pretrial Risk Assessment (KPRA), an objective instrument comprised of 12 risk factors, some of which were interview-based. The validated assessment was the KPRA-S, a seven risk factor assessment. The KPRA-S was found to accurately determine low-, moderate-, and high-risk defendants. The assessment was also found to predict those individuals prone to fail to appear (FTA) or commit new criminal activity (NCA) as well as the KPRA.
“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.
“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.
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:
- 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.
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.
The Colorado Pretrial Assessment Tool (CPAT) “is an empirically derived multi-jurisdiction pretrial risk assessment instrument for use in Colorado. It is designed to improve the various pretrial assessment processes that exist in local Colorado jurisdictions … The purpose of a pretrial risk assessment protocol that includes the CPAT is to enable Colorado pretrial services agencies’ recommendations for bond conditions, the court’s ordering of bond conditions, and/or the agency’s pretrial supervision to be more empirically derived and standardized statewide” (p. 3). Four chapters comprise this manual: introduction; scoring the 12 CPAT items; CPAT reporting—risk level categories, making bond recommendations using the CPAT, and additional notes; and CPAT revision.
"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).