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Risk/Need Assessment, Offender Classification, and the Role of Childhood Abuse

NCJ Number
Criminal Justice and Behavior Volume: 28 Issue: 5 Dated: October 2001 Pages: 543-563
Christopher T. Lowenkamp; Alexander M. Holsinger; Edward J. Latessa
Date Published
October 2001
21 pages
This article presents research regarding the validity of dynamic risk/needs assessment data, and childhood abuse, as predictors of future recidivism.
The first purpose of this study was to test the validity of risk/needs assessment when predicting future recidivism. The second purpose was to discover if and/or how prior childhood abuse affects criminogenic risk measured in a standardized way and if childhood abuse affects or overrides the measure of risk in predicting recidivism. The subjects were 442 felony offenders who were sentenced to a period of incarceration in a State prison. The prison sentence was subsequently held in abeyance, and the offender was placed in a residential community correctional facility designed to offer rehabilitative treatment. The offender had to have been assessed using the Level of Service Inventory-Revised (LSI-R), and the offender had to have been discharged from the residential facility prior to November 30, 1998. Results indicate that criminogenic risk is measured in a valid way using the LSI-R for both male and female offenders. Results also suggest that childhood abuse does not have a significant impact on either criminogenic risk or the actual risk of recidivism. Although female offenders were significantly more likely to report having experienced childhood abuse, this did not have a significant impact on the likelihood that they would be reincarcerated. The current analyses used three measures of outcome (program termination, absconding, and reincarceration in a State institution), while concentrating most on reincarceration in a State institution. The analysis used a self-reported measure of prior abuse, which included physical, sexual, and/or incest activity. Criminogenic risk is an adequate predictor of recidivism. Childhood abuse did not increase the risk of recidivism with this sample of offenders. 2 notes, 6 tables, 29 references