Using Risk/Needs Assessments in Reentry Services

Using Risk/Needs Assessments in Reentry Services

Published: Jan 31, 2023
Publisher: Mathematica
Associated Project

Reentry Projects Grant Evaluation: Serving Justice Involved Adults and Young Adults

Time frame: 2017-2024

Prepared for:

U.S. Department of Labor, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Policy, Chief Evaluation Office


Leah Pranschke

Ellie Pasternack

Key Findings
  • Risk/needs assessments use existing information to predict the likelihood of future outcomes (e.g., reoffending; Freeman et al. 2021; Taxman and Smith 2021).
  • Eighty-four percent of the CBOs that participated in the RP grants conducted participant risk/needs assessments, according to the grantee survey. The most common tools were those based on the Risk-Need Responsivity framework (53 percent of all CBO grantees), the Resource Allocation and Service Matching tool (42 percent), the Integrated Risk and Employment Strategy tool (38 percent), and the Dynamic Risk and Needs Assessment (33 percent).
  • Agencies use information generated from risk/needs assessments about a person’s highest criminogenic risks to determine their needs and target services accordingly (Duran et al. 2013; Taxman and Smith 2021). Agencies also use risk categorization to determine eligibility for services (Andrews and Bonta 2010). Among the RP CBO grantees surveyed, 98 of those that used a risk/needs assessment reported using the tool in their participant screening process and 85 percent in the development of Individual Development Plans.

The brief has four objectives: (1) describe how risk/needs assessments work, (2) detail which risk/needs assessment tools that CBOs participating in the RP grants used, (3) discuss how reentry service agencies use risk/needs assessment tools in offering employment-focused reentry services, and (4) describe three potential issues with using risk/needs assessments and potential strategies for reentry employment agencies to mitigate them. This brief draws on literature on risk/needs assessments in the criminal legal system and grantee survey data.

How do you apply evidence?

Take our quick four-question survey to help us curate evidence and insights that serve you.

Take our survey