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Predicting Recidivism: Continuing To Improve the Bureau of Prisons’ Risk Assessment Tool, PATTERN

NCJ Number
Date Published
April 2022

This report reviews the features and fulfillment of the federal mandate that the Federal Bureau of Prisons develop and implement a risk-and-needs assessment system for people in federal custody.



This mandate is in Title I of the federal First Step Act (FSA) of 2018, whose primary goal is prison reform that installs programs to reduce recidivism. In fulfilling the risk assessment mandate, consultants for the U.S. Department of Justice’s (DOJ’s) National Institute of Justice (NIJ) created a risk-assessment tool, the Prisoner Assessment Tool Targeting Estimated Risk and Needs (PATTERN). This tool assesses individuals’ risk of engaging in crime once they are released from federal custody. After its initial development in July 2019, PATTERN was subjected to public review and comment. Several subsequent revisions were then implemented to produce PATTERN 1.2 in January 2020. Since FSA’s Title 1 mandates regular review and assessment of PATTERN, in December 2021, NIJ released the annual review and revalidation report on PATTERN 1.2 and described the development of a revised version (PATTERN 1.3), which has 15 variables spread across four tools: 1) general recidivism for males, 2) violent recidivism for males, 3) general recidivism for females, and 4) violent recidivism for females. Although findings from the testing of PATTERN 1.3 are encouraging, NIJ’s expert consultants continue to pursue state-of-the-art approaches that will address remaining issues of bias, so as to reduce or eliminate differential predictions of risk based on race/ethnicity.


Date Published: April 1, 2022