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Risk and Needs Assessments. Presented by: Edward J. Latessa, Ph.D. School of Criminal Justice University of Cincinnati Edward.Latessa@uc.edu www.uc.edu/criminaljustice. Assessment is the engine that drives effective correctional programs. Need to meet the risk and need principle

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risk and needs assessments

Risk and Needs Assessments

Presented by:

Edward J. Latessa, Ph.D.

School of Criminal Justice

University of Cincinnati



assessment is the engine that drives effective correctional programs
Assessment is the engine that drives effective correctional programs
  • Need to meet the risk and need principle
  • Reduces bias
  • Aids decision making
  • Helps better utilize resources
  • Allows you to target dynamic risk factors and measure change
risk principle who to target with intensive programs
Risk Principle: “Who” to Target with Intensive Programs
  • Target those offender with higher probability of recidivism
  • Provide most intensive treatment to higher risk offenders
  • Intensive treatment for lower risk offender can increase recidivism
low risk 1 out of 10 will re offend
You do not know which person will re-offend.

Do you treat all 10 the same to make sure no one is missed?

Low Risk 1 out of 10 will re-offend


Treatment and Supervision Resources

high risk 5 out of 10 will re offend
You do not know which person will re-offend.

Do you treat all 10 the same to make sure no one is missed?

High Risk 5 out of 10 will re-offend


Treatment and Supervision Resources

the need principle the what to target

The Need Principle: The “What” to Target

Assess & targeting criminogenic needs for change

Criminogenic needs are those risk factors that are correlated with criminal conduct and can change

Non-Criminogenic needs are those needs that offenders have that are not strongly correlated with criminal conduct, but maybe barriers

need principle

Anti social attitudes

Anti social friends

Substance abuse

Lack of empathy

Impulsive behavior

Lack of self-control




Low self esteem

Creative abilities

Medical needs

Physical conditioning

Need Principle
major set of risk need factors
Major Set of Risk/Need Factors
  • Antisocial/pro-criminal attitudes, values, beliefs and cognitive emotional states
  • Pro-criminal associates and isolation from anticriminal others
  • Temperamental and anti social personality patterns conducive to criminal activity including:
      • Weak socialization
      • Impulsivity
      • Adventurous
      • Restless/aggressive
      • Egocentrism
      • A taste for risk
      • Weak problem-solving/self-regulation & coping skills

4. A history of antisocial behavior

major set of risk need factors cont
Major Set of Risk/Need Factors Cont.
  • Familial factors that include criminality and a variety of psychological problems in the family of origin including Low levels of affection, caring, and cohesiveness
  • Low levels of personal, educational, vocational, or financial achievement
  • Low levels of involvement in prosocial leisure activities
  • Substance Abuse
dynamic and static factors
Dynamic and Static Factors
  • Static Factors are those factors that are related to risk and do not change. Some examples might be number of prior offenses, whether an offender has ever had a drug/alcohol problem.
  • Dynamic factors relate to risk and can change. Some examples are whether an offender is currently unemployed or currently has a drug/alcohol problem.
According to the American Heart Association, there are a number of risk factors that increase your chances of a first heart attack
  • Family history of heart attacks
  • Gender (males)
  • Age (over 50)
  • Inactive lifestyle
  • Over weight
  • High blood pressure
  • Smoking
  • High Cholesterol level
there are two types of dynamic risk factors
There are two types of dynamic risk factors
  • Acute – Can change quickly
  • Stable – Take longer to change
dynamic risk factors and their importance
Dynamic Risk Factors and Their Importance
  • Also called criminogenic needs
  • Changing these factors changes the probability of recidivism
  • Provide the basis for developing a treatment plan
  • Address factors that will reduce risk
  • Lead to public safety
classification assessment of offenders
Classification & Assessment of Offenders
  • Primary measures have been identified
  • Best predictors of criminal behavior:

Static factors – past criminal behavior

Dynamic factors – crime producing needs

  • Best assessment method is the actuarial (statistical) approach
  • Best practices allow for risk management and risk reduction through effective treatment
  • Latest generation of instruments allow for measurement of change in offender
psychopathy checklist hare psychopathy
Psychopathy Checklist (Hare Psychopathy)
  • Glib/superficial charm
  • Grandiose sense of self
  • Stimulation seeking
  • Pathological lying
  • Conning/manipulation
  • Lack of remorse/guilt
  • Shallow affect
  • Callousness/lack empathy
  • Parasitic lifestyle
  • Poor behavioral control
  • Promiscuous sexual behavior
  • Early behavioral problems
  • Lack of realistic goals
  • Impulsivity
  • Irresponsibility
  • Not accepting responsibility
  • Many marital relationships
  • Juvenile delinquency
  • Conditional release revoked
  • Criminal versatility
one new non proprietary system is the oras
One New Non-Proprietary System is the ORAS
  • The Ohio Risk Assessment System (ORAS) consists of several instruments:
    • Pretrial
    • Community Supervision (plus screener)
    • Prison Intake
    • Reentry
finalized report
Finalized Report





  • Barriers to Service
  • Low motivation to obtain employment
  • Transportation—No valid license
  • Mental Health—Needs evaluation


applying the risk and responsivity principles
Applying the Risk and Responsivity Principles
  • High Contact Frequency
  • More intensive interventions
  • More targets for change
  • Minimize exposure to low risk

Use cost-benefit tools

Set long-term goal(s)

Motivational Interviewing strategies

Help problem solve transportation

Make referral/appointment to MH evaluation—making sure plan addresses transportation

  • Barriers to Services
  • Low motivation to change substance abuse behavior
  • Transportation—No valid license
  • Mental Health—Needs evaluation
applying the need principle
Applying the Need Principle

Disrupt criminal peer networks

Increase prosocial contacts

Employment readiness – Target attitudes that support employment

Target attitudes towards driving w/o license

What To Avoid Disrupting/Targeting

Minimize conditions associated with these areas

Monitor for compliance only

Do Not Target with any Treatment Interventions unless circumstances change

Increase prosocial attitudes

Target Problem Solving

Decrease attitudes supporting aggressiveness

reliability is very important
Reliability is Very Important
  • Are staff consistent in scoring?
    • Inter-rater reliability
      • Training
      • Experience
some things to consider
Some things to consider
  • What do I want to use it for?
  • Length of time needed to complete
  • Training
  • Cost
  • Complexity
  • When will it be done?
  • Where will it be done?
  • Who will do it?
  • Level of staff commitment
  • Is assessment reliable?
  • Is assessment valid?
build in policies around professional discretion
Build in Policies Around Professional Discretion
  • Also known as the override principle
  • Consider all the information and determine if placements dictated by assessment are the most appropriate
  • Generally should not exceed 10%.
some things to remember
Some things to remember
  • There is no “one size fits all” assessment tool
    • some domains or types of offenders will require specialized assessments (such as sex offenders)
    • use or purpose will vary
  • Actuarial assessment is more accurate than clinical assessment, but no process is perfect
  • Assessment helps guide decisions, doesn’t make them --professional discretion is part of good assessment
  • Reliability is more difficult to achieve with dynamic instruments – requires training of staff and continual monitoring of assessment process