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Risk, Need, and Responsivity (RNR): It All Depends

NCJ Number
Crime & Delinquency Volume: 52 Issue: 1 Dated: January 2006 Pages: 28-51
Date Published
January 2006
24 pages

Using an experimental study to test the effectiveness of the risk, need, and responsivity (RNR) approach for offenders who were involved in drugs, this article examined some of the issues inherent in the RNR concept.


The seamless system model was developed to provide intensive treatment services for offenders dependent on illicit substances. Aspects of the RNR (risk-need-responsivity) principle were then tested. What was tested was whether the intervention could achieve equal or differential results for different types of offenders as determined by a risk screening tool. The findings were as expected regarding treatment participation. Those assigned to the seamless system treatment intervention were more likely to attend treatment, to stay in treatment services longer, and to graduate from treatment. Findings suggest that more attention should be given to the conceptualization and measurement of criminogenic risk and need variables. The study illustrates that the measurement of needs is critically important in applying the RNR principle and that attention should be given to different factors that are more closely aligned to the criminogenic nature of the behavior. The RNR principle is where the risk and needs of the offender should drive the selection of an appropriate program that can address criminogenic factors. RNR follows the tradition suggesting that offenders should be linked to appropriate services based on the individual’s psychological and social needs. This study began by reviewing the history of developing risk and need factors in the criminal justice system followed by a presentation of the results from an experiment that examined the RNR principle and a discussion of some of the design and measurement issues affecting the outcome from the current experiment. The study concludes with a discussion of some of the issues related to advancing the RNR concept in practice. Tables, references

Date Published: January 1, 2006