- A) Challenges of Applying Risk and Needs Assessments in Corrections, Let’s look at the Case of Mr. Red
Mr. Red was sentenced to prison for committing a violent offense while he was drunk. Prison staff assessed Mr. Red using their prison risk and needs assessment instrument and classified him as having a moderate level of risk and needs. This classification did not have much impact on the treatment services he received in prison, because every person in the prison with a history of committing a violent offense is referred to the same 24-hour anger management group and would not typically receive any other treatment services.
Upon Mr. Red’s release from prison, his parole officer administered another risk needs assessment, but this time it was a parole risk and needs assessment instrument, which classified him as high risk. The parole officer talked with Mr. Red about his scores and what his score meant, which led them to work together to develop an individualized case plan. Commensurate with his high risk and needs classification, the initial plan included frequent contacts with parole staff, relatively restrictive supervision conditions, and a referral to an intensive substance use and cognitive skills program. A longer-term case plan included job training and possibly more treatment.
Note, Mr. Red’s case raises numerous questions: How reliable and accurate were the two risk and needs assessment instruments ( the one performed in prison and the one conducted by the parole department) administered to Mr. Red? Assuming the two instruments were reliable and accurate, why might he be identified as different risk and needs levels by these two instruments? Did the two instruments have the same number of risk and needs levels (e.g., three—low, moderate, and high) and how were these levels defined? How was his case plan in prison and later in the community (which were informed by his scores) different and similar regarding informative feedback given on Mr. Red? How reliable and/or valid were two risk and needs assessment instruments, particularly since the two yielded differing amounts of treatment services or plans?
Mr. Red received a prison sentence and then was later released back in the community. One important early step in community supervision, is the risk level of supervision to be provided. What is the appropriate level of treatment, supervision, and case management services for Mr. Red who exhibit different levels of risk and needs when incarcerated and released? How is a judge, probation or parole officer, treatment provider, or administrator to understand and communicate about what risk and needs assessment results mean?
The Assignment is to attempt to address these concerns and observation pointed out. To do so, require that you do in text and outside text readings on the risk needs assessment; then address the questions/issues.
Case Scenarios No. 1 Continues…… 1-B
Risk and Needs Assessment and Racial Disparity Given the over-representation of people of color among those who are in the criminal justice system, it is important to consider how factors that influence decision making, including risk and needs assessment, can contribute to racial disparities in the justice system. Deliberate action should be taken to prevent racial bias from entering the risk and needs assessment process, including conducting a validation study whereby jurisdictions can confirm that the assessment instrument is accurate across all racial groups. Beyond validation, jurisdictions should have formal mechanisms in place to assess the quality of implementation of the risk and needs assessment instrument and develop plans to address any bias found in the instrument itself or how it is being used.
Explain if and how risk and needs assessment can potentially help to limit racial bias in decision making in the criminal justice system?
Risk-Need-Responsivity (RNR) Principles
Brief Explanation The RNR principles have three major components:
Risk Principle: Match the intensity of services to a person’s level of risk for criminal activity
The risk principle states that the level of service should match a person’s risk of reoffending. Research shows that prioritizing supervision and program services for people at a moderate or higher risk of reoffending can lead to a significant reduction in recidivism for this population. Conversely, intensive interventions for people who are at a low risk of reoffending may actually be harmful and contribute to increasing the person’s likelihood of engaging in criminal behavior. High-intensity supervision or programming for lower-risk people has been shown to be an ineffective use of resources.
Need Principle: Target criminogenic needs (factors that contribute to the likelihood of new criminal activity)
The need principle directs that treatment and case management should prioritize the core criminogenic needs that can be positively impacted through services, supervision, and supports. Major criminogenic needs include attitudes supportive of crime, pro-criminal peers, lack of engagement in work/family, substance use, aimless use of leisure time, and lifestyle instability. Research indicates that the greater the number of criminogenic needs addressed through interventions, the greater positive impact those interventions will have on reducing recidivism.
Responsivity Principle: Account for a person’s abilities and learning styles when designing services
The responsivity principle highlights the importance of reducing barriers to learning by addressing learning style, reading ability, and motivation when designing supervision and program service strategies. The two types of responsivity—general and specific—have implications at the program and individual levels. The general responsivity principle refers to the need for interventions that help to address criminogenic risk factors such as antisocial thinking. Research shows that social learning approaches and cognitive behavioral therapies can be effective in meeting a range of these needs, regardless of the type of crime committed. Prosocial modeling and skills development, teaching problem-solving skills, and using more positive than negative reinforcement have all been shown to be effective. Specific responsivity refers to the principle that distinct personal needs should be addressed in order to prepare someone for receiving the interventions used to reduce criminal behavior. Specific responsivity relates to the “fine-tuning” of services or interventions, such as modifying a cognitive behavioral intervention to account for a cognitive impairment associated with mental illness. It also accounts for the person’s strengths; personality; learning style and capacity; motivation; and cultural, ethnic, racial, and gender characteristics, as well as behavioral health needs. Abiding by the responsivity principle can help to ensure that interventions are available and accessible and tailored to people in ways that can motivate them for services.