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September 2006

Volume 70 Number 2

Special Issue: Risk Assessment
Introduction: Why Assessment "Matters" in an Evidence-Based
Community Corrections System
By James Byrne, Guest Editor
Assessment with a Flair: Offender Accountability in Supervision Plans
By Faye Taxman
What Community Supervision Officers Need to Know About Actuarial
Risk Assessment and Clinical Judgment
By Patricia Harris
Clinical Versus Actuarial Judgments in Criminal Justice Decisions:
Should One replace the Other?
By Stephen D. Gottfredson, Laura J. Moriarty
Overcoming Sisyphus: Effective Prediction of Mental Health Disorders
and Recidivism Among Delinquents
By Albert Roberts, Kimberly Bender
Mental Illness in Correctional Populations: The Use of Standardized
Screening Tools for Further Evaluation or Treatment
By Arthur Lurigio, James A. Swartz
Risk Assessment and Sex Offender Community Supervision: A ContextSpecific Framework
By Andrew Harris
Validating the Level of Service Inventory—Revised on a Sample of
Federal Probationers
By Anthony W. Flores, Christopher T. Lowenkamp, Paula Smith, Edward J. Latessa
Validation of the Risk and Resiliency Assessment Tool for Juveniles in
the Los Angeles County Probation System
By Susan Turner, Terry Fain

How much risk Can We Take? The Misuse of risk Assessment in
By James Austin
Assessing the Role of Clinical and Actuarial Risk Assessment in an
Evidence-Based Community Corrections System: Issues to Consider
By James Byrne, April Pattavina
From Theory to Practice: The Lifecycle Document for the Results-Based
Management Framework for the Federal Probation and Pretrial Services
Contributors to This Issue
The articles and reviews that appear in Federal Probation express the points of view of the persons who wrote
them and not necessarily the points of view of the agencies and organizations with which these persons are
affiliated. Moreover, Federal Probation's publication of the articles and review is not to be taken as an
endorsement of the material by the editors, the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts, or the Federal Probation
and Pretrial Services System.
Published by the Administrative Office of the United States Courts www.uscourts.gov
Publishing Information

Volume 70 Number 2







Introduction: Why Assessment "Matters" in an
Evidence-Based Community Corrections System
James Byrne, Guest Editor
Department of Criminal Justice and Criminology
University of Massachusetts, Lowell
Every day, federal, state, and local community corrections officers are required to make
decisions about the “risk level” posed by individuals placed under community supervision. Based
on this risk assessment, offenders are assigned to a specific supervision level, where a variety of
“tools and techniques” will be applied in an attempt to “manage” the risk posed by these
offenders, at least for their time under community supervision. With roughly 100,000 probation
and parole officers nationwide supervising an offender population of close to 5 million, it can
certainly be argued that risk assessment is the single most important decision made by probation
and parole officers today. With large caseloads and shrinking budgets, “triage” is the “name of
the game” in the community corrections field; and assessment is a critical first step in any triage
In this special issue of Federal Probation, a number of nationally known experts in the field of
community corrections have been asked to provide their own assessments of this triage process,
focusing specifically on the use of both clinical and actuarial risk assessments by community
corrections officers. A number of questions about risk assessment are raised and answered in this
issue, including:
What do we actually mean by risk?
How reliable and accurate are actuarial and clinical assessments?
What types of assessment instruments are available for adult offenders, juvenile offenders,
and specific offender groups, such as sex offenders, drug offenders, and/or mentally ill
offenders?, and perhaps most importantly,
What evidence exists that links initial (and ongoing) risk assessment (using actuarial and
clinical assessment tools) with subsequent offender outcomes (i.e., the link between
assessment and risk reduction)?
As the authors of the articles in this special issue demonstrate, we currently know more about
how to classify offenders into several categories of “risk” of re-offending than we know about
how to reduce their “risk” of re-offending while under community supervision. When viewed in
this context, debates over the use of actuarial vs. clinical assessment tools tend to obscure a
larger issue: Are we interested in short-term offender control or long-term offender change? I
would argue that in an evidence-based community corrections system, a clear link needs to be
established, beginning with 1) valid and reliable initial (and ongoing) assessment, continuing to 2)
development of risk-specific community corrections interventions, and concluding with 3)
identification of subsequent offender outcomes in communities with different community risk


Because risk assessment is the “lynchpin” in this process, it is critical to the success of
community corrections, both in terms of short-term offender control and long-term offender
change. While much time and effort has focused on how to assess the risk level of individual
offenders, far less research has been focused on the assessment of community risk level (see, e.g.
Pattavina, et al., 2006). As we conduct further research on how different individuals (such as
high- vs. low-risk offenders) respond to community supervision strategies in different
communities (such as high- vs. low-risk neighborhoods), we will take the logical next step in the
development of an evidence-based community corrections system.
In the first article of this special issue, “Assessment with a Flair: Offender Accountability in
Supervision Plans,” Faye Taxman—one of this country’s leading experts on case planning in
community corrections—argues that the first rule in evidence-based community corrections
practice is that services (both treatment and control-based) to offenders should vary in intensity
based on the risk level of offenders. She describes how the risk level of the offender should be
considered: first in terms of the intensity and appropriateness of services, and next in terms of
the offender’s individual case plan, which should focus on the clinically-based assessment of
criminogenic needs (substance abuse, family dysfunction, peer associates, criminal personality,
antisocial cognitions, low self control, and other factors, including mental health).
Patricia Harris expands on the notion that both actuarial and clinical assessments are essential
components of an evidence-based community corrections system in her excellent review of both
types of risk assessment in community corrections. Her article, “What Community Supervision
Officers Need to Know About Actuarial Risk Assessment and Clinical Judgment,” reviews the
empirical research on the adequacy of both clinical and actuarially-based risk assessment
instruments, and then identifies three impediments to the full implementation of actuarial risk
assessment in community corrections:
unclear/cursory presentations on the purpose of actuarial risk assessments to line staff;
poor communication of offender risk assessment results; and
failure to recognize the importance of clinical judgment (and skill) in the (actuarial) risk
assessment process.
The third article that focuses on the use of actuarial and clinical assessment tools—“Clinical
versus Actuarial Judgments in Criminal Justice Decisions: Should One Replace the Other?”—is
authored by two of the country’s foremost experts on risk assessment, Stephen Gottfredson and
Laura Moriarty. They begin their review by offering the following unequivocal assessment of the
two competing approaches to risk assessment: “In virtually all decision-making situations that
have been studied, actuarially developed devices outperform human judgments.” While they
argue that “there is a place for human judgment and experience in the decision-making process,”
they offer the following caveat: over-reliance on human judgment may undermine the accuracy
of the risk assessment, because probation and parole officers may “concentrate on information
that is demonstrably not predictive of offender behavioral outcomes.”


While the three articles that have just been highlighted present an overview of existing research
that has been conducted on both actuarial and clinical risk assessment instruments, the next three
articles highlight the use of different types of assessment strategies for different types of
offenders. First, Albert Roberts and Kimberly Bender examine the most commonly used risk and
mental health needs assessment tools in juvenile corrections in their uniquely titled article,
“Overcoming Sisyphus: Effective Prediction of Mental Health Disorders and Recidivism among
Delinquents.” The authors discuss the implications of their review for the two central goals of
youth assessment in juvenile justice settings: 1) the safety of the community, and 2) the
rehabilitation (and clinical treatment) of individual juvenile offenders. [ Note: According to the
“Myth of Sisyphus” webpage, “The gods had condemned Sisyphus to ceaselessly rolling a rock
to the top of a mountain, whence the stone would fall back of its own weight. They had thought
with some reason that there is no more dreadful punishment than futile and hopeless labor.” ]
Next, Lurigio and Swartz identify and critically review the use of actuarial and clinical risk
assessment tools for the large number of adult offenders in our community corrections system


with serious mental illness (SMI). Focusing specifically on the instruments used to identify
offenders with serious mental illness, Lurigio and Swartz describe the results of their recent
research testing the accuracy of two “new generation” mental health screening tools in
community corrections (the K-6 screening tool, and the Brief Jail Mental Health Screen).
Moving from mentally ill offender assessment devices to sex offender risk assessment devices,
Andrew Harris provides a comprehensive review of the research on the use of actuarially-based
and clinically-based assessments of sex offender risk. Harris’s article underscores one limitation
—at least to some—of a risk-driven community corrections system: If we made decisions about
sex offenders based solely on actuarial risk assessment, then very few sex offenders would ever
be placed under close supervision, because as a group, sex offenders recidivate at remarkably
low rates. The Harris article raises important questions for community corrections managers to
consider, not only about the accuracy of sex offender-specific assessment devices using either
actuarial or clinical assessment instruments, but also about the interplay between the actual risk
posed by various types of sex offenders and the stakes (for offenders, victims, probation/parole
officers, and the community) associated with decisions made on the appropriate level of control
needed for this group of low-risk but high-stakes offenders. For sex offenders, over-classification
appears to be an inevitable consequence of the “risk” assessment process, not because these
offenders pose a high risk to recidivate, but rather because for this group of offenders, any risk—
one in 10, one in 20 or even 1 in 100—is unacceptable due to the high stakes involved.
One of the challenges facing community corrections managers at the federal, state, and local
level is the development of a defensible risk assessment system. By defensible, I am referring to
a classification system that is externally reviewed and objectively validated. Two separate articles
address this issue directly. First, Anthony Flores, Christopher Lowenkamp, Paula Smith, and
Edward Latessa examine the predictive accuracy of the Level of Service Inventory-Revised (LSIR) for a sample of 2,107 adult federal probationers, using subsequent incarceration (rather than
the traditional re-arrest) as their outcome measure. Next, Susan Turner and Terry Fain present
the results of their validation of the “Risk and Resiliency Checklist,” first developed in San
Diego and currently being used in the Los Angeles Probation Department as the centerpiece of
the department’s new automated case planning system. The authors found that a youth’s
resiliency score—the net sum of risk factors (which have negative values) and protective factors
(which have positive values)—is significantly related to subsequent recidivism, using re-arrest
during a 12-month follow-up period (from initial assessment) as the outcome measure.
The final two articles in this special issue challenge much of the current thinking in the area of
risk assessment and offer a different set of policy options for readers to consider. James Austin
is one of this country’s foremost authorities on institutional and community-based classification
systems. His article, “How Much Risk Can We Take? The Mis-use of Risk Assessment in
Corrections” describes the six basic steps to follow in developing a risk assessment instrument:
Risk assessment instruments must be tested on your (own) correctional population and
separately normed for males and females,
An inter-rater reliability test must be conducted,
A validity test must be conducted,
The instrument must allow for dynamic and static factors,
The instrument must be compatible with the skill level of your staff, and
The risk instrument must have face validity and transparency with staff, probationers,
parolees, and policy makers.
Utilizing the concepts presented in his six-step risk assessment development model, Austin
provides a critique of the best-known and most commonly used risk assessment instrument, the
LSI-R, using illustrative examples from recent studies on the reliability and validity of the LSI-R
that he conducted in Pennsylvania (parole board), Washington, and Vermont (community
corrections). Austin concludes his review by identifying the “disconnect” that currently exists at
the federal, state, and local level between an offender’s risk level and the availability of services:
high-risk offenders are under-serviced, while low-risk offenders are over-serviced. As Austin
suggests, “It would be helpful for those in the risk assessment business to start advocating a

more reasonable level of intervention that matches the risk they have so carefully calibrated”
(this volume).
Byrne and Pattavina’s article, “Clinical and Actuarial Risk Assessment in an Evidence-based
Corrections System: Issues to Consider,” concludes the special issue by identifying three topics
central to the current debate over the use of actuarial and clinical risk assessment in community
corrections: 1) the need to distinguish between risk assessment and risk reduction, 2) the
dummying down of community corrections associated with the development of actuarial risk
assessment instruments, and 3) the need to combine individual risk assessment and community
risk assessment in the next generation of risk-driven supervision strategies.
Taken together, the ten articles included in this special issue of Federal Probation offer readers
an opportunity to examine the empirical evidence on the application of actuarial and clinical
assessment instruments in community corrections systems, and to consider the new wave of
assessment instruments being developed for adult and juvenile offenders and for specific
subgroups of offenders (mentally ill offenders, substance abusers, sex offenders). Each author
raises challenging issues for policy makers, practitioners, and the public to consider regarding the
proper role of assessment in an evidence-based community corrections system.
What “predictions” can be offered about the direction of the field? In the very near future, I
suspect that the current focus on the reliability and validity of risk classification systems will be
supplanted by discussions of how to improve treatment classification systems in both institutional
and community corrections. When this occurs, it will likely be the result of an emphasis on
offender change—rather than short-term offender control—as the primary purpose of our
community corrections system.
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The articles and reviews that appear in Federal Probation express the points of view of the persons who wrote them and
not necessarily the points of view of the agencies and organizations with which these persons are affiliated. Moreover,
Federal Probation's publication of the articles and review is not to be taken as an endorsement of the material by the
editors, the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts, or the Federal Probation and Pretrial Services System.
Published by the Administrative Office of the United States Courts www.uscourts.gov
Publishing Information




Volume 70 Number 2







Assessment with a Flair: Offender Accountability in
Supervision Plans

Faye Taxman, Ph.D.
Virginia Commonwealth University
The Standardized Risk and Needs Assessment Tool Dilemma
Clarifying the Concepts of Risk & Dynamic
Risk Factors: Actuarial
Substance Abuse
Family Dysfunctional
Peer Associates
Criminal Personality
Antisocial Cognitions (Attitudes/Orientation/Thinking)
Low Self Control
Mental Health, Self-Esteem, Low Educational Attainment, Employment & Other Factors
Applying Rule #1 in Correctional Agencies
RULE NUMBER ONE in EBP (evidence-based practice) is that high-risk offenders should be
placed into appropriate treatment services, and that low- and moderate-risk offenders should not
receive the same intensity of services. (Note: The use of the term “services” here includes both
treatment and control techniques.) While this may seem like a simple concept, it encompasses
the following: 1) use actual risk assessments; 2) use dynamic criminogenic needs; 3) adopt
responsivity or matching strategies to link offenders to services and controls; and 4) administer
heterogeneous programs that address the myriad of offender issues. The goal is to combine all of
these together as a supervision plan that identifies the goals and specifies expectations for the
offender. These expectancies become the binding agreements that define the criteria for being
successful on supervision. Stated simply, assessment is not just a stand-alone process; instead, it
is a process that should lead to the goal of a supervision plan that is designed to change the
behavior of the offender.
Assessment should be the beginning of the correctional process. Of course in contemporary
criminal justice practice, it can occur at a number of points, including arrest and pretrial
detention, sentencing, intake to probation/parole or prison, and so on. In other words, it can
occur in numerous places, all with slightly different goals—at pretrial to determine risk of flight
or danger to society, at sentencing to determine the appropriate punishment and/or placement, at
prison to determine security levels, and at probation/parole to determine risk to the community.
In all of these calculations, the goal of the assessment is to inform decisions about the degree of
restrictions that an offender should be given based on the offender’s history and seriousness of
the current offense. The assessment can also contribute to what is traditionally referred to as a
“treatment plan,” or more specifically the corrective action plan to help the offender become a
productive citizen and contributing member of society. As noted recently by Ed Latessa and his


colleagues (2002), corrections practice today seldom ties the assessment to a plan for the
offender. Instead the plan for the offender is generally made based on judicial or parole board
The most frequent stumbling block is an understanding of the core elements that are embedded
in EBP Rule #1, and how to apply these elements in practice. That is, with the tools that are
available, often there is a misunderstanding of the concepts of risk and needs. Often the terms
“static” and “dynamic” are inappropriately interchanged with risk and needs. Risk refers to the
actuarial (or statistical) likelihood that an offender will have further criminal behavior. Dynamic
refers to the dimensions of the person’s functionality that, if improved, can affect their
involvement in criminal behavior. A clarification of these concepts is the main goal of this paper,
with an eye on trying to clarify how best to use these concepts in correctional practice.
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The Standardized Risk and Needs Assessment Tool Dilemma
Don Andrews and his colleagues (2006) recently provided a historical review of the concept of
objective assessment tools for the criminal justice system. The review detailed the generational
development of assessment in the various phases of the criminal justice system over the last 80
years: clinical assessments of offenders’ risk to the community with some emphasis on treatment
planning, actuarial risk assessment to assess the likelihood of further criminal behavior, actuarial
risk assessment combined with dynamic variables to better guide treatment planning, and
actuarial risk assessment tools supplemented by problem-specific tools. The development of
standardized tools for the field has accompanied various needs in the criminal justice system,
including classification, treatment planning, release decisions (from prison, jail, or parole), and
sentencing. Essentially, assessment tools have been developed and used for various purposes,
which adds to the complication of how to use the tool(s). Some tools are designed merely to
identify risk factors related to certain decisions, while others are designed to identify the factors
or needs that, if altered, an improve offender outcomes.
As is true for other fields, and as other articles in this issue of Federal Probation note (see
papers by Austin and Harris), a major point of discussion in the criminal justice field has been
the value of standardized assessment tools compared to that of subjective assessments by
counselors and other correctional staff. The preference for subjective assessment is a longstanding issue in the field (as well as in psychology, education, and other disciplines), since
professionals feel confident in their decision-making skills, and do not want to succumb to a
paper-pencil test. But as discussed by Harris (2006) in another article of this edition, research
persists in demonstrating that standardized objective tools enhance decision making, besides
providing institutional safeguards against discretionary, biased, or inappropriate decisions. The
use of standardized tools minimizes the potential for bias to be introduced into the decision
making process by such human factors as the staff person being influenced by the dress,
mannerisms, and/or attitude of the offender, in addition to such obvious factors as gender, class,
and race.
Of course, the clinical vs. objective tool debate is an overstatement of the relative advantage of
an interview with the offender. Third and fourth generations of assessment tools are
accompanied by an interview (clinical in nature with “clinical” referring to an interview to collect
information from the offender in a manner conducive to assessing the offender’s risk and needs).
The purpose of the interview is to gather key information on key domains and then use that
information to evaluate the offender’s responses in comparison to the official record (e.g., arrest
records, crime report, treatment history etc.). That is, risk assessment with dynamic factors or the
latest generation of risk assessment accompanied by specialized tools (such as drug screeners,
mental health screeners, etc.) requires a clinical interview to obtain and assess information from
the subject. A good assessment process requires interviewing the offender, which allows the
criminal justice professional to gather, collect, and evaluate the offender’s responses along with
other information obtained in official records. And, as promulgated by Taxman and colleagues
(2004) and Taxman (2004), an important part of the interview process is engaging the offender

in processing his/her own responses to the interview questions as part of a process of engaging
the offender in becoming more accountable for his/her behavior.
Lowenkamp, Latessa, and Holsinger (2006) found that many offenders were not screened for
actuarial risk before being placed in community correctional programs in Ohio, and that
reductions in recidivism were noticeable for high-risk offenders in correctional programs that
tended to be multi-dimensional and primarily served high-risk offenders. The authors developed
an actuarial risk tool that focused only on the offender’s static risk factors (prior arrests, prior
incarceration, age at current arrest, employed at arrest, history of failure in community
correctional programs, drug use history). In a series of articles and presentations, they have
reported the same results for offenders placed in residential programs, intensive supervision
programs, and other correctional programs in Ohio. Using a quasi-experimental design, the
researchers illustrate that reductions in recidivism are possible by using standardized risk tools,
which help to ensure that high-risk offenders receive the more structured services. Their research
also illustrates how poor classification schemes can result in over-classifying offenders (i.e.,
placing low-risk offenders in inappropriate programs) and only serve to increase the recidivism
of this group of offenders. Their research basically supports Rule #1 of EBP regarding the
importance of actuarial risk tools. This is the recent addition to a long-standing support for this
concept from individual studies and also, more importantly, from recent meta-analyses (see
meta-analyses such as Andrews, Bonta, and Hoge, 1990, Andrews et al., 1990; Lipsey & Wilson,
1998; Gottfredson, Najaka, & Wilson, 2001; Wilson, Lipsey, & Derzon, 2003).
Research studies of late have shown that the field is struggling with how best to use the concepts
of risk and needs in criminal justice decisions, and particularly on how best to integrate dynamic
or need factors. A series of articles in the 2006 Crime and Delinquency (edited by me and Doug
Marlowe) illustrate how this struggle occurs. Taxman and Thanner (2006) detail how a
randomized trial to examine the efficacy of a seamless probation-treatment protocol was affected
by the classification of offenders as drug-involved. Offenders were assessed using an actuarial
risk tool in one stage of the experiment and then a clinical assessment was conducted to
determine drug use. Using the standard DSM-IV criteria (Diagnostic Statistical Manual IV-TR),
a clinician assessed the offenders to be drug abusers. (DSM-IV states the accepted criteria for
abuse and dependency.) In this experiment, half of the offenders were classified as high risk and
half as moderate risk. However, few of the offenders in either the high risk or the moderate risk
categories could be classified as drug dependent by the DSM-IV criteria. (The intervention
involved a cognitive behavior treatment that was geared for offenders with drug problems.) Study
findings indicate that the seamless system had no impact overall, but analysis found that the
seamless system had a positive effect on high-risk and drug-dependent (addicted or serious abuse
problems) offenders. In this study, the clinician did not use a standardized tool to assess for a
drug problem, which resulted in overclassifying offenders as drug users when in fact many would
not have met that criteria if a standardized tool was used. Another article in this edition by
DeMatteo, Festinger, and Marlowe (2006) found that in many drug courts numerous offenders
are not drug dependent and had generally low-threshold drug use (they were nevertheless
classified as drug offenders largely due to their involvement in the legal system, which is one of
the criteria for being classified as an abuser). Yet, these offenders are asked to participate in a
highly structured program and required to go to drug treatment services. Not surprisingly, the
drug courts do not tend to demonstrate reductions in recidivism.
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Clarifying the Concepts of Risk & Dynamic
Risk and needs vs. static and dynamic? The third and fourth generation tools combine two
concepts into one instrument or protocol. The two concepts are: 1) that actuarial risk factors can
be used to determine the degree to which the offender’s history predicts that he/she is likely to
be a risk in the community or in a prison setting (i.e., the past predicts the future notion); and 2)
that needs or psycho-social factors that should be ameliorated or addressed can be identified to
reduce the risk for further involvement in the criminal justice system. The combination of these
two concepts into one instrument or a cascading model (using screeners to determine the need for

more in-depth inquiry into a problem area based on the results from the screener, such as fourth
generation instruments include) evolved from the needs of the criminal justice system for better
classification and treatment placement tools. The researchers constructed the Wisconsin Risk and
Needs Tool to allocate service resources accordingly (much like a triage approach, where highrisk offenders would receive the scarce resources first to prevent harm). This resource allocation
tool was constructed on a management-model premise.
The field has had a difficult time learning to use these tools in a manner that would facilitate the
intended purpose—Rule #1. Again, the intended purpose is to isolate the criminal drivers while
keeping in mind the actuarial risk. Criminal drivers refer to the people, places, or things that
affect an individual’s involvement in criminal behavior. This means that the current status of an
individual in areas that may in the past have been a problem may not be as relevant as other
areas. Since many of these instruments use dichotomous (yes/no) responses or three categories of
responses (none, some, many), practitioners are often left wondering how to select the drivers
from other precursors. And, since many behaviors are intertwined, such as co-occurring disorders
of mental health and substance abuse problems, the practitioner needs to determine which factors
should be addressed as part of the criminal justice system, and which factors may be important
for the person to address in the greater scheme of his or her overall health and well-being, but do
not necessarily need to be encompassed in the criminal justice system.
Many attitudes, values, and behaviors lie on a continuum of “no problem” to “severe problem”
behavior. This is important to keep in mind, because most human beings exhibit certain negative
traits, but it is the degree to which these traits influence the subject’s involvement in negative
behavior such as crime or drug use that concerns the criminal justice system. In this case, the
negative influence is one that predisposes an individual to engage in certain acts, or hold certain
values or attitudes that they tend to hold when engaging in behaviors that are covered by the
criminal laws.
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Risk Factors: Actuarial
In determining actuarial risk, we measure behaviors that predict negative outcomes (increased
risk for criminal behavior) (e.g. the concept of predictive validity). The actuarial risk generally
refers to demographic or historical factors (past behaviors) that affect the trajectory of an
individual. For example, age of first arrest (or incarceration) is a predictor of further involvement
with the criminal justice system, since the earlier an individual has been involved in the criminal
justice (or juvenile justice) system, the greater the likelihood of future involvement. The actuarial
concept in criminal justice is similar to that used in assessing risk factors for health insurance
(e.g. family history, age of onset of a disorder, number of occurrences, etc.) or car insurance (e.g.
prior driving history, speeding violations, etc.). As discussed by Gottfredson and Moriarty (2006),
the statistical methods and methodology for developing these tools are sound. The emphasis is
placed on criminal behavior, and the historical factors that predict the likelihood that an offender
will continue criminal conduct.
The key question is the criterion variable or the behavior that is being predicted. In traditional
criminal justice literature, the criterion variable is new criminal behavior (as measured by new
arrests or reincarceration). Yet, many proxies that may be used in a risk assessment may not be
direct measures of criminal behavior. Examples are substance use (except the tautology that use
of illicit substances is a criminal act) or other victimless crimes (e.g. prostitution, etc.), technical
violation for failures on probation and/or parole supervision, and so on. Clarifying this concept is
important to differentiate whether the behavior being predicted is actual further criminal
behavior. It should be noted that heightened law enforcement activities (arrests) in some
geographic areas (which increases the odds for arrest) may influence certain variables. This is
why some researchers are focused on certain classes of behavior (e.g. property crimes, violent
crimes, etc.) that are less susceptible to the neighborhood context that an individual resides in.
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