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Alameda County Placement Risk Assessment Validation, Final Report

NCJ Number
Date Published
June 2001
45 pages
This is the final report for a National Institute of Justice (NIJ) grant project intended to validate a risk assessment instrument for juvenile probation placement cases in Alameda County, CA.
This project was a follow-up to a process that began in 1996 when the Alameda County Probation Department contracted with the National Council on Crime and Delinquency to construct a 5-year plan to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of their Juvenile Services Division. The project adapted a risk assessment instrument based on an existing instrument that had been used and validated on juvenile probationers in California. Construction and validation samples were used to develop the scale. The instrument addressed the relative risk of recidivism of the youth, but did not take into account the severity of the current offense, which was rarely found to be highly correlated with recidivism. The instrument focused on age at first finding, prior criminal behavior, institutional commitments or placement of 30 consecutive days or more, drug/chemical use, alcohol use, parental skills, school disciplinary problems, and peer relationships. For the validation study, Alameda County adopted the cut-off scores that were then used in other California counties. Previous studies had found that these scores were accurate in distinguishing between groups of offenders that had significantly different rates of recidivism. In essence, youths classified as medium-risk were twice as likely to reoffend as youths classified as low risk. Similarly, high-risk youth were twice as likely to reoffend as medium-risk youth. The validation study found that 525 of the 1,334 youth in Alameda County who were placed on field supervision in 1996 fell into the lowest risk category and could therefore have possibly been handled with less restrictive sanctions than being placed on formal supervision. In addition, 202 youths scored high enough on the scale to warrant more restrictive sanctions, such as out-of-home placement or intensive probation supervision. The report concludes that the placement risk assessment instrument developed was valid and equitable for the targeted juvenile justice population; therefore, the instrument can be useful for staff who are making informed placement decisions. 12 tables, appended risk assessment guidelines, and a 9-item bibliography

Date Published: June 1, 2001