Risk and Needs Assessment

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Risk and Needs Assessment


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Risk and Needs Assessment

Risk and needs assessment is part of a strategy by the field of criminal justice to identify programs and practices that are effective in the reduction of offender recidivism and improvement of public safety. Risk and needs assessment is done using actuarial based tools to classify offenders into different levels of risk including low medium and high and to identify and design interventions to address the needs of offenders such as antisocial peer groups and antisocial attitudes related to recidivism. A risk and needs assessment resulting in high risk classification means that the offender has characteristics similar to other offenders who have recidivated, while a low risk classification means that the offender has characteristics similar to offenders who typically, do not reoffend.

The purpose of risk and needs assessment in criminal justice includes its role in informing risk management decisions with regards to the level of supervision in terms of the frequency and type of contact between the probation officer, client and other individuals or agencies. In addition, risk assessment informs decisions regarding strategies for reduction of risk that target the specific needs of an offender related to recidivism such as cognitive behavioral programs, employment training, job assistance and drug court among others. The above role of risk and needs assessment makes risk and needs assessment information important to judges when determining an offender’s amenability to community supervision and the conditions of probation in sentencing and revocation hearings. This is because risk and needs assessment provides information about an offender’s relative recidivism risk and potential strategies for reducing the risk of the offender.

Risk and needs assessments are necessary because they create a basis for the formation of possible interventions and strategies to reduce offending among individuals in the criminal justice system. It provides valuable information that guides decision making especially in sentencing and disposition of the accused in the criminal justice system.


Casey, P. M., Elek, J. K., Warren, R. K., Cheeseman, F., Kleiman, M., & Ostrom, B. (2014). Offender Risk & Needs Assesment Instruments. National Center for State Courts.

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