Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2020, $48,100)
The First Step Act (FSA) of 2018 involves major reforms to the criminal justice system. A key component of the FSA involves the development and deployment of a new Risk and Needs Assessment System (RNAS) within the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP). Under Title I of the FSA, the Department of Justice (DOJ) is mandated to review, validate, and release publicly its RNAS—which is known as the Prisoner Assessment Tool Targeting Estimated Risk and Needs (PATTERN)—on an annual basis. In order to fulfill this requirement, the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) is seeking to establish an external team of experts to evaluate the performance of PATTERN and to assist the DOJ in the preparation of the annual reports over the next five years. In this proposal, I detail a comprehensive research plan for this task and describe why I would make a valued member of this team. My research strategy would involve working with the BOP Office of Research and Evaluation (ORE) to collect the most recent prospective information available in order to assess the predictive validity, racial/ethnic neutrality, inter-rater reliability, and dynamic validity of PATTERN. It would also investigate if adding more dynamic needs items or modifying the scoring scheme of the tool would help lead to improvements in its efficiency, equitability, and effectiveness. Finally, it would assess the capacity of the BOP to serve its medium- and high-risk offenders with appropriate recidivism reduction programs and evaluate the impact of matching inmate risk and need factors to specific programs on recidivism. This research strategy would not only help the DOJ ensure that the goals of FSA are achieved but would also hold important policy implications for the BOP that may help improve the lives of offenders and reduce their post-release recidivism. A project of this scope and complexity will require a carefully selected team of experts in order to be successful. My unique professional and academic experiences, including my expertise in the development and validation of risk assessments for criminal justice settings, have prepared me well for joining the NIJ team of research consultants. As a member of this team, I will ensure that this project is successfully carried out in accordance with the FSA.