Risky Needs

Risk Entangled Needs in Probation Supervision 1

Authored by: Danielle S. Rudes , Jill Viglione , Kimberly S. Meyer

Handbook on Risk and Need Assessment

Print publication date:  October  2016
Online publication date:  November  2016

Print ISBN: 9781138927766
eBook ISBN: 9781315682327
Adobe ISBN:


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In the wave of evidence-based practices (EBPs) sweeping over community corrections agencies in the last decade, risk-needs assessment instruments are perhaps the most commonly adopted EBP and represent a critical part of any probation/parole case plan. Today’s risk-needs assessment tools replace decades of gut-level decision making and best—but not evidence-based—practice models steeped in a legacy of risk aversion (Kemshall, 2000), actuarial models (Feeley & Simon, 1992; Simon, 1993) and people processing (Hasenfeld, 1972; van Maanen, 1978). Over several generations, risk-needs assessment tools formalized probation/parole officer (PO) decision making within case supervision to improve consistency in decision making as well as recidivism outcomes. However, the implementation of these tools is imperfect (Viglione et al., 2014). Although community corrections agencies widely adopt and implement risk/needs assessment tools and train on the relevant evidence around both risk and criminogenic need, the way individual POs complete, score, interpret and use data from the tools varies widely (Miller & Maloney, 2013; Viglione et al. 2014). And, although the instruments focus on both risk and criminogenic needs, there is inconsistency among POs about how to define, classify and respond to static risk and both criminogenic and non-criminogenic needs.

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