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Managing Risk in Jails

NCJ Number
Mark D. Martin; Claire Lee Reiss J.D.
Date Published
April 2008
95 pages
This manual presents a framework for understanding and communicating more effectively about risk management issues in jails.
The jail's senior management team - including the sheriff, jail administrators, and other key management staff - should use this manual as a guide for planning and implementing an effective risk management program. A discussion of the definition of "risk" recommends that "risk" be viewed as "an uncertainty of outcome - the possibility that an outcome will differ from the expected - rather than the possibility of a bad outcome." In a jail, attempting new endeavors can involve the assumption of the risk of unexpected unfavorable events. Such events can challenge the organization's resources in responding to unplanned or unexpected consequences. Managing risk involves the evaluation of an opportunity for progress, which also carries the risk of failure and adverse consequences for the jail. This assessment of the opportunity should analyze the likely range of positive and negative consequences of the action under consideration; identify ways to maximize the likelihood of positive consequences and control negative ones; and a decision as to whether the possible benefits of the opportunity are sufficient to justify taking the carefully controlled risk. This manual identifies the costs (both direct and indirect) and consequences of failing to assess and manage risk, and it describes the positive outcomes of effectively managing risk. Communication approaches are presented that engage all staff in the process of assessing and controlling risk. In addition, the sources of risk and factors that contribute to risk events in jails are identified and analyzed. Sample worksheets are provided for identifying, analyzing, and prioritizing risk. The manual also identifies risk-management organizations and resources available to assist jail officials in establishing risk-management programs. Appended guidance on evaluating risk financing options