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Prison classification

New information and knowledge learned regarding classification and risk assessment systems are reviewed. Topics discussed include: differences between prison classification and public risk assessment; differences between external and internal prison classification systems; standards in evaluating prisoner classification and other risk assessment instruments; the logic of prisoner classification systems; issues in reliability; issues in validity; factors associated with misconduct; impact of prison management and environment; and the need to link prison classification, risk assessment, and release decisions.

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The development, implementation, impact assessment, and refinement of objective internal classification systems are examined. In addition to an executive summary, this report contains three chapters: introduction; description of the states' internal classification initiatives (Connecticut, Colorado, Washington, Oregon, Florida, New Jersey, South Dakota, and Missouri); and common problems, issues, and solutions. Appendixes include: Checklist for the Analysis of Life History of Adult Offenders (CALH) from MDOC; MDOC Correctional Adjustment Checklist; and IDOC Internal Classification Form for Maximum Security Facilities.

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Proceedings from this two-day national forum on classification and information system related problems are provided. Topics discussed include: linking all the pieces; external and internal classification; classification data for planning; linking DOC to local jails; prison internal classification systems; automated risk and needs; AICS - personality based model; managing high risk offenders; responding to litigation; winning classification systems -- Montana; responding to litigation -- Michigan; classification of women offenders; BOP's work with revalidation and classification of women offenders; a dynamic instrument for women; reentry -- linking prison classification to reentry to the community; reentry -- incarceration planning; and wrap-up and next steps. Appendixes include presenter bios and contact information for all of the participants.

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Classification systems help minimize the potential for prison violence, escape, and institutional misconduct. During the past three decades, correctional system administrators and researchers worked assiduously to improve their approaches to classifying and housing incarcerated individuals according to their custody, work, and programming needs. These efforts have refined and validated the criteria for custody decisions, increased the reliability of custody decisions, reduced over-classification, enhanced assessment of institutional program needs, and reduced institutional violence.

This publication is an update to NIC's previous Objective Prison Classification (2004). The second edition includes updates to critical areas, including the classification of women in prison and evaluating current classification systems. Following a brief discussion defining the essential components of an effective classification system, the guide walks through the four phases of effective classification system development: mobilization, assessment, planning, and implementation. The guide concludes with a discussion of special topics and implications for the future.

 

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Effective offender classification is essential in corrections, not only to support daily management and administration, but also to keep the system responsive to changing offender demographics, sentencing statutes, and agency policy. 

The National Institute of Corrections helps agencies develop or modify their classification procedures through programs, technical assistance, and resource materials. Use of objective classification systems and techniques is emphasized.

Currently, NIC is designing the classification revalidation workbook for use in the field, with an anticipated release in the summer of 2020.

 

The Importance of Implementing Risk and Needs Assessments Successfully

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This infographic from the CSG Justice Center explains the urgent need for corrections agencies to examine how they administer risk and needs assessments, so they can confidently rely upon the results and avoid the pitfalls of poor implementation.

This is a collection of material about prison classification. Use the link on the right to download the following titles:

  • Classification of High-Risk and Special Management Prisoners: A National Assessment of Current Practices
  • Classification of Women Offenders: A National Assessment of Current Practices
  • Developing Gender-Specific Classification for Women Offenders
  • Enhancing Prison Classification Systems: The Emerging Role of Management Information Systems
  • Internal Prison Classification Systems: Case Studies in Their Development and Implementation
  • Objective Prison Classification: A Guide for Correctional Agencies
  • Prison Intake Systems: Assessing Needs and Classifying Prisoners
  • Revalidating External Prison Classification Systems: The Experience of Ten States and Model for Classification Reform
  • Critical Issues and Developments in Prison Classification
  • Findings in Prison Classification and Risk Assessment
Objective Classification series cover

This article provides a brief but very informative explanation of how courts rule on cases involving custodial risk levels based on the previous gang activity of the prisoner. Sections cover: issue introduction; classifying gang members; Michigan’s Security Threat Group (STG); quantum of evidence; due process; and failure to classify

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Tasks, assessments, and technology used in prisoner intake systems are examined. Following an executive summary, this report has seven chapters: introduction; national overview of facility characteristics, facility functions, intake components and personnel responsibilities, and obstacles to intake assessments; four chapters review select agency's corrections population, intake facilities, intake process, processing time and flexibility, classification, and needs assessment -- one chapter per Department of Correction(s) from Colorado, Washington (state), Pennsylvania, and North Carolina; and implications of the research. Appendixes include: "Admission Data Summary" and "Diagnostic Narrative Summary" forms (Colorado DOC); "Risk Management Identification Worksheet" form (Washington DOC); and Pennsylvania DOC "Classification Summary."

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The Prisons Division facilitates specialized training related to prison operations, conducts operational networks, coordinates technical assistance, as well as programs regarding leadership and management.

The Division also sponsors publications and materials on recent trends, the latest research and topics of interest to correctional practitioners, as well as participates in an interdisciplinary effort to assist jurisdictions in developing a more efficient, cost-effective, and coordinated system of correctional operations.

No-cost technical assistance related to prison operations is available in areas such as policy development, safety and security, emergency preparedness, staffing, and special management inmates. The Division also conducts conference workshops with emphasis on the following: Leadership and Management; Prison Management and Operations; Institutional Culture; Workforce; and Classification.

Correctional Program Specialist: Scott Richards

Work undertaken by the participating states is described, an outline of the fundamental tasks required for a revalidation effort is provided, and external classification trends and lessons learned from these classification reforms are summarized within this report (p. x). This report is comprised of the following sections: executive summary; introduction; NIC classification goals and objectives; description of the ten states' external classification initiatives (Virginia, Montana, Oregon, Oklahoma, Texas, Wyoming, Wisconsin, Delaware, Rhode Island, and Tennessee); recommended methodology for testing, implementing, and monitoring classification reforms; and common issues, problems and solutions, and next steps. Appendixes provide copies of external classification instruments validated by select states and statistical tables.

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