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National Scan of Policy and Practice in Risk Assessment

NCJ Number
Cathy Kim; KiDeuk Kim; Edward Mohr
Date Published
July 2018
10 pages
This Policy Brief by the Public Risk Assessment Clearinghouse (PRAC) reports on the methodology and responses for a survey conducted by PRAC to determine the state of risk assessments in U.S. criminal justice systems, with attention to connections and distinctions among jurisdictions.
The PRAC reached out to criminal justice practitioners and researchers across the country to collect information on current practice in risk assessment. Responses were received from 43 states about their experiences with risk assessment within their jurisdictions. Initial contacts were identified based on a list of state Statistical Analysis Centers and an additional online search for state criminal justice agencies and researchers working with state and local criminal justice agencies on projects related to risk assessment. Contacts were asked to recommend additional criminal justice contacts in their states to provide requested information. Additional contacts included researchers and practitioners with a working familiarity with risk assessments used in their states. The survey contained questions on six decisionmaking stages at which risk assessments are used: 1) pretrial; 2) jail; 3) prison; 4) release; 5) parolc; and 6) probation. Four key conclusions resulted from an analysis of responses. First, whether there is a standard tool used statewide depends on the decision point; for example, pretrial tools were more likely to be determined locally, and parole decision tools were more likely to be statewide. Second, a large majority of states required use of risk assessments at various stages in compliance with legislation or policy. Third, validation practices for assessment tools varied. Fourth, personnel challenges were identified by respondents as the most common concern in implementing risk assessments.