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).
"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.
“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.
The Colorado Pretrial Assessment Tool (CPAT) is an empirically-based pretrial risk assessment tool developed to inform bond decisions in Colorado. The tool measures a defendant’s risk of failure to appear (FTA) or re-arrest while released pretrial. The overall goal of this study was to examine and validate the current CPAT, and based on feedback from multiple criminal justice stakeholders, construct and pilot a revised version of this tool, the CPAT-Revised (CPAT-R). The study was completed between January 2018 and June 2020 and included three phases. This report will detail the methodology and results of all three phases of this study.
“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).
“When your juvenile justice system puts youth on probation, does it assess them for risk? If so, do staff know how to use these assessments effectively? Or do the assessments just sit in a file, waiting to be dusted off? Whether your agency or jurisdiction is trying to choose the right risk assessment tool, or it already has one in place, you'll find this webinar from the National Juvenile Justice Network (NJJN) helpful.” The audience is introduced to the use of risk assessments for. The publication “Risk Assessment in Juvenile Justice: A Guidebook for Implementation” (NIC accession number 027092) provides the foundation for this presentation. Issues discussed include: what is meant by “risk”; what risk assessments can and can’t accomplish; whether a risk assessments has to be separate from a needs assessment; what works in the use of risk assessments for pre-trial detention or community reentry; what policies and procedures need to be in operation before a risk assessment can be effective in a probation setting; and how a jurisdiction gets the buy-in of stakeholders in the utilization of risk assessments.
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.
If implemented well, a risk assessment instrument can improve allocation of resources and lead to fewer youths being removed from the home or incarcerated, while still protecting public safety. This article briefly describes how to effectively implement a risk assessment instrument in a juvenile justice system and presents research findings on the changes that can result (p. 49). The effective use of juvenile justice risk assessment is explained.
"Identifying defendants who are most likely to not return to court for their trials is key to reforming the bail system in Wisconsin and nationwide. Doing so will cut costs and increase public safety."
The results from a study of eight risk assessments used for determining which justice-involved youth are low-, moderate-, or high-risk for future delinquency are reviewed. Sections comprising this summary are: introduction; comparison of juvenile justice risk assessment instruments by agency, risk assessment model, and effectiveness; inter-rate reliability testing; validity and equity testing; and implications for practice. Risk assessment should be a simple process that is easily understood and articulated. This study’s findings show that simple, straightforward, actuarial approaches to risk assessment can produce the strongest results (p. 5).