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Risk Assessments and Offender Classification Systems

The JFA Institute provides nationally recognized expertise to design risk assessment instruments, juvenile and adult custody, classification, parole guidelines systems, and probation and parole supervision systems. The “clinical” decisions made every day by criminal justice officials can be guided and improved by the use of these empirically-based tools. Based in statistical sciences, these instruments are broadly accurate in predicting the risk that people will re-offend, in determining the best security risks for classifying inmates in prison, and in guiding parole boards making discretionary release decisions.

Unlike other risk assessment systems, the Institute’s systems are customized for each jurisdiction, normalized on their offender population, and have no on-going support costs. In other words, the agency owns its own system and can make whatever modifications it chooses. The Institute will guide an agency or jurisdiction through the complex process of development, testing, and institutionalizing these assessment tools.

This process involves: (a) the identification of groups of offenders to be studied (i.e. offenders admitted to prison or offenders being considered for parole); (b) the selection of study samples; (c) the extraction and organization of case information; (d) collection of follow-up outcome information (i.e. re-arrests, recidivism, program failure); (e) statistical analyses to identify the factors that correlate with relevant outcomes; (f) assigning of statistical weights to these factors; (g) dividing of populations by risk groups or prison classification levels based on key factors; and (h) final design of the risk assessment , prison classification or parole guideline instrument based on the results of the research. Once an instrument is developed and adopted for decision making, the use of the instrument can also be monitored by the Institute and feedback periodically presented to the agency or jurisdiction.

The JFA Institute has developed the parole guideline systems in Texas, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Maryland, Nevada, and Louisiana with similar systems being developed in Vermont, West Virginia, and Oklahoma. Additionally, the Institute has implemented classification systems for juvenile and adult custody in over 30 local and state correctional systems.