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The First Step Act of 2018: Risk and Needs Assessment System - UPDATE

NCJ Number
Date Published
January 2020
41 pages

As part of the U.S. Department of Justice’s (DOJ’s) compliance with the federal First Step Act (FSA) of 2018, this report provides an update on DOJ’s activities in developing a new Risk and Needs Assessment System (RNAS) announced in July 2019, as a means of helping to reduce recidivism among federal prisoners.



Since the announcement of this project in July 2019, DOJ has continued to work with the Independent Review Committee (IRC) and DOJ experts in identifying ways to improve DOJ’s RNAS, called the Prisoner Assessment Tool Targeting Estimated Risk and Need (PATTERN). DOJ also continued to engage a range of stakeholders who have expressed their concerns and provided suggestions. The current follow-up report focuses on the changes made to PATTERN as a direct result of the input and suggestions on this project. After reviewing the features and content of the various formats for suggestions relevant to PATTERN’s content, the changes made to PATTERN are stated and explained. Among the changes made are adding more dynamic factors and removing static factors; removing certain variables to ensure that PATTERN is fair and accurate; facilitation of the movement of inmates from a higher to a lower risk category; clarification of the terms “general” and “violent” recidivism to promote transparency; change of the term “recidivism” to include only convictions and not arrests; and consideration of having the same risk assessment tool for both men and women, instead of different content for risk-assessment screenings by gender.