Risk/Needs Assessment 101: Science Reveals New Tools to Manage Offenders
State policy makers across the country are putting research into action by passing legislation that requires their courts and corrections agencies to use evidence-based practices. over the past few years, a number of states have passed comprehensive corrections reform packages that require the use of risk/needs assessment and are projected to save taxpayers millions of dollars.
Arkansas: The Public Safety Improvement Act of 2011, a comprehensive sentencing and corrections reform law, directs the Department of Community Correction to use risk/needs assessments to set conditions of supervision and to assign programming as part of an overall strategy for improving supervision practices.9 The full package is projected to save Arkansas $875 million in averted prison costs through 2020.
Kentucky: The wide-ranging Public Safety and Offender Accountability Act of 2011 requires the courts and corrections authorities to incorporate risk/needs assessments to inform decisions at multiple points in the criminal justice process. The Act further requires that 75 percent of state expenditures on individuals under community supervision be spent on evidence-based programming within five years. The state estimates the overall legislation will save $422 million over 10 years.
New Hampshire: In 2010, the state legislature mandated the use of risk/needs assessments to inform decisions about the length of active supervision for all offenders on probation and parole. Along with the establishment of a new system for handling technical violations of supervision, this provision is expected to save the state nearly $11 million over five years.
South Carolina: The legislature in 2010 required probation agents to conduct actuarial assessments of offenders' risks and needs, and make decisions about the type of supervision and services consistent with evidence-based practices. The law was part of the Omnibus Crime Reduction and Sentencing Reform Act,15 which is projected to save the state $241 million over five years."