Using Risk Assessment & Risk-Needs-Responsivity Principles in Juvenile Justice

Juvenile Specialty Court

Using Risk Assessment & Risk-Needs-Responsivity Principles in Juvenile Justice

April 1, 2016
Author(s): 

There is an emerging consensus in the juvenile justice field that punitive sanctions alone do not have a significant effect on reducing juvenile reoffending (Gatti et al., 2009). In fact, research has found that with some youths, any exposure to the juvenile justice system (e.g. community service or probation) can actually increase their chances of offending again (Models for Change Research Initiative, 2011). It has also been found that the severity of the first offense is not a significant indicator of future patterns of offending (Mulvey et al., 2010), and that the majority of low-risk youth are unlikely to reoffend even with little to no intervention (Lipsey, 2009). Given the high cost of confinement of juvenile offenders, it would benefit both juveniles and juvenile justice agencies to sort juvenile offenders by risk, to divert low risk offenders away from the juvenile justice system as often as possible, and to focus on services to high risk offenders.

Sorting juvenile offenders by risk requires valid risk assessment instruments, critical tools for facilitating matching the right services to the right youth at the right time. Juvenile justice systems need to consider risk in conjunction with juveniles’ mental health, to ensure that appropriate services are provided. However, such problems should not be treated in isolation; they must be treated along with the other risk factors.