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The First Step Act of 2018: Risk and Needs Assessment System

NCJ Number
Date Published
July 2019
102 pages

As one of three major achievements related to the U.S. Justice Department's implementation of the First Step Act (FSA), this report reviews the development and features of a new risk and needs assessment system called the Prisoner Assessment Tool Targeting Estimated Risk and Needs (PATTERN).


The report's first chapter details the requirements of the FSA regarding the development of a risk and needs assessment system, and it summarizes the Justice Department's work in implementing the FSA's requirements in creating PATTERN. The second chapter identifies the characteristics and principles that are fundamental in developing an effective risk and needs assessment system, and it also describes the data and information used to create a strong risk and needs assessment system. The third chapter describes the features of PATTERN, explaining its strengths and improvements. It notes that PATTERN achieves a high level of predictive performance, surpassing what is typical for risk assessment tools used with U.S. correctional populations. It uses dynamic factors, which enables inmates to make progress in behavioral changes while in prison. Its predictive performance reduces bias, improving parity across race and ethnic classifications. In addition, PATTERN is a single assessment that incorporates a design that encourages risk-reduction in inmate behavior over time. The fourth and concluding chapter presents the Justice Department's strategic plan to fully implement PATTERN in the field. It also includes an agenda for continued engagement with experts, stakeholders, and the public in assessing the performance and improving the effectiveness of PATTERN. Extensive notes and illustrative photos

Date Published: July 1, 2019