Recognizing Offender Needs When Assessing Risk


Offender risk assessments need to include appraisals of destabilizing influences and factors likely to cause criminal behavior — known as criminogenic needs — according to a new study in the journal Criminology and Public Policy.

Researchers examined the offender profiles of 17,252 community-supervised people from North Carolina's probation system. They found that there were four common classes of “dynamic needs,” which combine both risk and destabilizing influences, such as mental health and substance abuse problems, lack of housing and educational deficits:

  • low need with few destabilizers (36 percent)
  • moderate need with high destabilizers (28 percent)
  • high need with moderate destabilizers (23 percent)
  • high need with high destabilizers (13 percent)

The study notes that many jurisdictions limit the eligibility of low-risk offenders for treatment services, but many of the offenders classified as low-risk in the study “were found to have complex dynamic needs.”

“The current study findings indicate that most offenders have service provision needs in multiple life domains. The high prevalence of destabilizers (e.g., mental health and housing) across the classes heightens the importance of integrating case-management services within treatment programming and stresses the necessity for the development of interventions that are sensitive to the complexity of offender treatment needs,” researchers wrote.

The full study is available here.

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