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Standardized Instruments for Assessing Risk and Need in Youthful Offenders

NCJ Number
Criminal Justice and Behavior Volume: 29 Issue: 4 Dated: August 2002 Pages: 380-396
Robert D. Hoge
Date Published
August 2002
17 pages
This article assesses the judgments about the risk and need levels of youthful offenders that form the basis for many decisions made in juvenile justice systems.
The author's essential arguments are that the quality of judicial decisions in these systems depends directly on the validity of these judgments and that the quality of the judgments and of the decisions following from them would be improved through the use of standardized assessment tools. The article reviews three instruments that are the object of current research activity. The article begins, however, with a review of decision and assessment processes observed in juvenile justice systems. This is followed by a discussion of the concepts of risk and need, with attention to criminogenic risk, criminogenic need, and responsivity factors. Following an overview of youth assessment considerations, the author profiles the following three assessment instruments: the Child and Adolescent Functional Assessment Scale (CAFAS), the Psychopathy Checklist Youth Version (PCL-YV), and Youth Level of Service/Case Management Inventory (YLS/CMI). The author advises that these three measures should be regarded as instruments in development, because evaluations of the measures are continuing, and practical actuarial data have not yet been made available; however, even in their current form, they are useful alternatives to the unstructured, informal assessment procedures so often used in juvenile justice systems. All of the instruments provide information about risk and need factors, but the range of factors covered differs. The instruments also differ somewhat in the demands made on the professional conducting the assessment. With one exception, however, all can be administered by a professional without an advanced degree in psychology or a background in clinical assessment. The measures may serve as screening tools to identify youths requiring more intensive assessments or may be used as an aid in developing recommendations regarding judicial decisions. 59 references