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Advancing Use of Risk Assessment in Juvenile Probation

By Laura S. Guy, Gina M. Vincent, Thomas Grisso, and Rachael Perrault | National Criminal Justice Reference Service | September 2015


Juvenile probation officers at three sites in two States (Mississippi and Connecticut) were trained to use the Structured Assessment of Violence Risk in Youth (SAVRY; Borum, Bartel & Forth, 2006) and the Massachusetts Youth Screening Instrument-Second Version (MAYSI-2; Grisso & Barnum, 2000, 2006). Also included in the use of these instruments was a decisionmaking model for case planning that integrated information about behavioral health variables and risk for reoffending. A standardized implementation process was used to assist sites in the selection of tools, development of policies, categorization of available services and interventions, as well as the development or modification of existing case plans. Results indicate that probation staff can be trained to complete violence risk assessment using the structured professional judgment approach. This produced a high degree of inter-rater agreement, and case management decisions can take into account a youth’s risk for future offending. The study advises that in order for risk assessment to impact youths’ cases and individual outcomes, risk assessment must occur early in the judicial process. Risk assessment should be conducted before making decisions about disposition, placement, and the services to be provided. It is also recommended that States use a structured, empirically validated approach to risk assessment. A variety of inconsistencies were found in probation staffs’ use of the MAYSI-2, despite efforts to train staff to use this assessment tool. Reasons for this inconsistent use of MAYSI-2 are suggested, and recommendations are offered to address it. Study limitations and future research are discussed.

Read the full study here.