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Risk and Needs Assessments in Prisons: Identifying High-Priority Needs for Using Evidence-Based Practices

NCJ Number
Date Published
29 pages

This report outlines the discussions and recommendations of a 2-day workshop sponsored by the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) to examine the use of risk and needs assessment (RNA) tools in prisons.


In a prison setting, RNA tools enable staff to make informed decisions about the risks posed by each inmate and the needs underlying his/her criminal behavior that should be addressed in prison programming and management. The four major workshop themes related to RNA assessments in prisons were organizational issues, the selection and implementation of RNA tools, the administration of assessments, and programming to meet inmate needs identified in RNA administrations. Workshop participants identified the need for additional training and guidance for prison staff, evaluation reports on RNA tools, and the research findings on the effectiveness of various approaches to RNA assessments and related prison programming. Thirteen workshop recommendations are outlined. They include the  development of training programs and guidebooks on RNA that contain evidence-based principles and practices for RNA assessment in a prison environment; conducting research that assesses techniques and approaches for improving the validity of RNAs; the development of a taxonomy of correctional programming, along with potential outcome measures for program evaluation; and the development of an infrastructure that provides ongoing support for research that produces evidence of the effectiveness of new RNA prison programs. 

Date Published: January 1, 2020