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Re-Validation of the Federal Pretrial Services Risk Assessment (PTRA)

NCJ Number
Federal Probation Volume: 76 Issue: 2 Dated: September 2012 Pages: 3-9
Timothy P. Cadigan; James L. Johnson; Christopher T. Lowenkamp
Date Published
September 2012
7 pages
This article explains the process used to develop the Pretrial Services Risk Assessment tool (PTRA).
The article first presents an overview of the literature on pretrial services risk assessments, followed by an explanation of the choice to create a Federal risk assessment instrument rather than use an existing one. The article concludes with a presentation of the methodology and results produced in the re-validation of the PTRA. The overall results of the re-validation demonstrate that the PTRA provides adequate predictive validity. Two major policy implications stem from this research. First, the Federal pretrial services system now has a re-validated risk-assessment tool for use on defendants under its jurisdiction. The instrument can be used to identify higher risk defendants for enhanced services, as well as to reduce services to low-risk defendants. The second major policy implication is the apparent need to add dynamic factors to risk assessment. Data analyzed in this study focused on static factors associated with change in new criminal activity/failure to appear rates; therefore, the addition of dynamic factors would provide officers with an essential tool for monitoring and reassessing risk in a standardized way, so as to ensure that supervision and services are having intended impacts. The re-validation file contained 32,455 defendants for whom PTRAs were completed in 2011, the first full year of operations. The re-validation was conducted because PTRA was validated using archival data, and officers have now completed assessments prospectively, so it is important to ensure that the tool is still valid. 6 tables and 17 references