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Mission Accomplished? Evaluating Whether Risk and Needs Assessments Are Producing Expected Results

NCJ Number
Date Published
November 2015
2 pages

After noting the trend in States' adoption of validated screening and assessment tools for the determination of youth's risk of reoffending and their treatment needs, this report identifies remaining challenges in this area and offers key recommendations for improving outcomes for youth in the justice system.


An increasing number of States now require the use of risk assessments and mental health screening for youth; however, States are struggling to ensure that the assessment results are used to inform key decisions in the supervision of each youth. Specifically, youth assessed as low risk are receiving the same formal supervision as high-risk youth rather than being diverted into less costly programs designed for low-risk youth. Court decisions continue to be based on subjective decisions rather than validated assessments of each youth, and the services provided are not tailored to the needs of each youth based on a needs assessment. This report recommends establishing statutory requirements for how risk screening and needs assessment results are used in decisions pertinent to diversion, disposition, and the length of time under correctional management. It also recommends requiring that correctional funding for youth give priority to services for moderate-risk and high-risk youth. In addition, it recommends tracking the use and costs of community supervision, incarceration, and services by youth's risk level. This should include requiring an annual data report to the legislature. 2 figures