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Prisoner Intake Systems: Assessing Needs and Classifying Prisoners

NCJ Number
Patricia L. Hardyman Ph.D.; James Austin Ph.D.; Johnette Peyton M.S.
Date Published
February 2004
88 pages
This research identified the tasks, assessments, and technology used in the intake processes in U.S. State prison systems.
The study was implemented in two phases. In the fall of 2001, a national review of the 50 State correctional agencies was conducted to obtain data and information about inmate populations, facility functions, intake components, personnel responsibilities, and the strengths and weaknesses of the assessment process. In the second phase, four States were selected from the national review and examined more closely. An analysis of the data from the national review of State prison intake systems led to proposals for improvements that can yield more timely, accurate, and useful assessments. The improvements envisioned are enhanced and timely data-sharing among intake facilities, courts, and other correctional agencies; linked management information systems; validated risk and needs assessment tools; and increased bed and administrative office space at intake facilities. The four State case studies involved the prison systems of Colorado, Washington, Pennsylvania, and North Carolina. The description of each State prison system and its intake procedure addresses the corrections population, intake facilities, the intake process, processing time and flexibility, classification, and needs assessment. The four systems were similar in scope and outline, but differed in duration, daily operations, classification procedures, and needs assessment tools. All had separate intake facilities for males and females. All conducted inmate orientations that, at a minimum, acquainted prisoners with the facility's rules. All assessed prisoners for security threat group participation as part of the identification component of the intake process. All performed medical, mental health, education, and substance abuse testing on all inmates; included inmate interview and case file review; based scoring systems on similar factors to determine custody levels; and allowed for both mandatory and discretionary custody overrides. Overall, the findings of this research suggest that better integration of the institutional and community risk, needs assessment, and case management processes and planning is required to maximize resources; ensure the safety and security of correctional systems and communities; better prepare inmates for their release; and support the communities to which inmates are released. Future initiatives should focus on models that require reasonable efforts in the areas of staff training, tool validation, and process implementation. Appended supplementary information on the Colorado, Washington, and Pennsylvania intake systems