Concerns About Bias in Risk and Needs Assessment

An overarching issue policymakers might consider is whether BOP should use risk and needs

assessment to classify offenders by risk level and identify the criminogenic needs that might be

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addressed by prison programming. Research suggests that assessment instruments can make

distinctions between high-, medium-, and low-risk offenders with some degree of accuracy.

Furthermore, the latest research suggests that assessment systems and offender programming that

adhere to the RNR principles are more effective at reducing recidivism than those that do not.

Implementing an assessment system and offender programming regime that adheres to the RNR

principles in federal prisons is, based on the current research, an evidence-based way to better

match inmates with the rehabilitative programming they need, and when combined with earned

time credits for some inmates who complete rehabilitative programs and productive activities, it

might provide a means for reducing the federal prison population without increasing the risk to

public safety.

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