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Redesigning Risk and Need Assessment in Corrections

NCJ Number
Date Published
July 2021

This article proposes four principles that should be followed in selecting and administering tools for the risk and need assessment (RNA) of convicted offenders.


Correctional agencies use RNA instruments to provide information on offenders that will guide decisions about their programming, support, and restrictions that are intended to promote public safety and prevent reoffending. These proposed principles for guiding the selection and administration of a RNA instrument are fairness, efficiency, effectiveness, and communication. The principle of “fairness” requires that RNA tools address potential racial and ethnic disparities in how RNA tools are used and interpreted. The principle of “efficiency” requires that the administration of RNA instruments be computer-assisted to save time and reduce subjective scoring. The principle of “effectiveness” for RNA instruments means using advances in statistics, data science, and predictive analytics to monitor and assess outcomes of offender programming based on RNA assessments. The principle of “communication” means helping individual offenders to understand the purpose of the RNA assessment, its results, and how their supervision and programming is tailored to address the needs and risks underlying their offending.

Date Published: July 1, 2021