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Washington State Institute for Criminal Justice Corrections and Community Health

Risk-Need Assessment

In the last ten years, the Washington State Department of Corrections (WADOC) has marked a series of advancements, from a standard “off-the-shelf” instrument (LSI-R), to a static-only instrument with improved predictive validity (SRA), and finally the addition of a needs assessment tailored to the Washington State offender population (STRONG). The current project is an expansive endeavor to combine collected static risk and dynamic items into a consolidated system of prediction instruments – prison infraction, recidivism and violations. To improve gender sensitivity, models are created separately for males and females. Partnering with software application specialists (, this project will span the development and implementation/training of the revised version of WADOC’s Static Risk and Offender Needs Guide assessment system (STRONG-R).
Report of Effectiveness | pdf


Research in Brief – Interrater Reliability |pdf

Research in Brief – Internal Consistency |pdf

Research in Brief – Internal Structure|pdf

Research in Brief – Convergent-Discriminate Validity |pdf

Research in Brief – Concurrent Validity |pdf

Research in Brief – Content Validity | pdf

Read more information on the risk assessment here: “Offender Risk Assessment” on the Corrections Forum

Comparing Risk Assessment Methodologies

Offender risk assessment instrument methodology has progressed over the last 4 decades. The advancement of prediction, beginning with clinical knowledge/decision-making, was followed by static assessments, then advancing to the inclusion of dynamic and generally responsive instruments. Recent evolutions in actuarial research have revealed the potential of increased utility of machine learning and data mining strategies to develop statistical models such as classification/decision tree analysis and Neural Networks. These are said to mimic the decision-making of practitioners. The current project examines the improvement gained in predictive accuracy through perceived methodological improvements. Utilizing a large purposive sample of Washington State offenders (N=297,600), this study examines the predictive validity of the currently used Washington State Static Risk Assessment (SRA) instrument comparing its predictive validity to Classification Tree Analysis/Random Forest and Neural Network models.

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STRONG-R- Sex Offender Assessment
Predicting sexual offending has become an increasingly important need for agencies in charge of release and supervision of reentering offenders. General offender recidivism prediction instruments (e.g. LSI-R) have not held the predictive validity desired. Specialized sex offender instruments (e.g. Static-99, RASOR, and SONAR) have noted limitations, such as: lack of analytic weighting, overreliance on static risk factors, or are too subjective to deliver reliable and valid results. Furthermore, many sex offender specific instruments have substantial item overlap with general offender recidivism prediction instruments, which duplicates labor demands of assessment teams and results in unnecessary slowing of data systems. The current project encompasses the development and implementation/training of a sex offender specific instrument (STRONG-R) to be incorporated as part of Washington State’s general offender prediction system (STRONG-R).
Research Brief | pdf

Multi-State Validation of Static Risk and Offender Needs Guide for Recidivism (STRONG-R)

WSU researchers recently developed the STRONG-R by employing advanced methodologies such as item weighting, gender specificity, and outcome specificity. Since the instrument has been used in multiple jurisdictions, data from four states including California, Nebraska, Tennessee, and Washington will be utilized to demonstrate improved predictive validity from stated methodological advancements. This multi-state validation of the updated version of the STRONG-R will highlight the evidence for customized utility of the tool for each jurisdiction as well as advanced functionality achieved through the latest assessment tool development methodologies.

Offender Typology
Currently, risk assessments are conducted to determine placement in a small set of categories (e.g. low, moderate, and high) formulated on a dimensional (continuous) scale. However, this type of categorization ignores key interactions among predictor variables. Latent Class Analysis is a more recently utilized method that attempts to take a seemingly heterogeneous sample of subjects and separate them into homogeneous subsamples based on similar characteristics. The current study attempts to create a typology of Washington State offenders reentering from incarceration. The study seeks to identify common “types” of offenders being released to the community, examine the interpretive and predictive value of a typological assessment and potential interactions of offender types with interventions and services.

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Spatial Dynamics of Offender Risk
Risk assessment literature often notes the transitions of assessment tools through four generations; moving from clinical judgment, to static-only, to the inclusion of dynamic risk, and final provisional indications of general responsivity. Although little advancement has been observed in the methodologies or item selection of said tools, one area has been, for the most part, ignored among offender risk models. With regards to recidivism, where an offender returns represents an important component to consider. Recent advancements in spatial analysis methodologies have now made it possible to incorporate neighborhood-level factors that contribute to an offender’s success on community corrections supervision. The current project attempts to identify the relative impact of return location as an element of the currently accepted domains of offender risk assessment.

Predicting Technical Violations
The intended purpose and hope of the “technical violation” is that such a violation would act as an indicator of the person’s potential of committing a new crime. Parole revocations are grounded in the notion that technical violations are actually proxies of new criminal offenses – a notion that has yet to be sufficiently challenged. Using risk assessment predictors of new crime, we test the sensitivity and specificity of risk assessment variables using a receiver operating characteristic (ROC) in relation to the prediction of technical violations. By encompassing data from three Northwestern states, we offer a necessary investigation into the assumptions that drive risk assessment, treatment placement, and supervision plans.

WARNS Middle School Diagnostic Tool Pilot Study
Drs. Nicholas Lovrich and Paul Strand, along with Maureen Erickson (WSU Criminal Justice MA) are working on a follow-up project stemming from grant-funded research on truancy and dropout problems in Spokane County school districts. Funding came from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and then the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and entailed assessments of a restorative justice effort begun in 1997 in the West Valley School District after enactment of the state’s BECCA Bill. That law requires schools and juvenile courts to engage actively in the monitoring of school attendance and the filing of petitions to the courts to compel students and/or parents or guardians to comply with the state’s mandatory attendance statute. The West Valley School District leadership decided to reach out to its citizens, its community-based groups, its non-profit organizations and its public service agencies to join in a common effort to create an alternative to court processing for truant youth in the form of a Community Truancy Board (CTB). A Models for Change grant was awarded to WSU researchers by the Foundation to support the development of a “replication tool kit” for school districts wishing to adopt the process. The Spokane Public Schools (SPS) replicated the CBT concept for their high schools, and the Mead School District did likewise for all grades. Soon after the end of the Mac Arthur Foundation funding the SPS, the Spokane Regional Health District, Greater Spokane Inc., and the Spokane County Juvenile Court collaborated in a grant funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to test out the possibility of earlier intervention (middle school) before a BECCA filing would take place for at risk students.

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Assessment of the Civilly and Forensically Committed
This project focuses on the development and creation of a risk assessment to predict a variety of outcomes (i.e. hospitalizations, recidivism and commits) following the release from civil commitments. Sponsored by the Washington State Legislature and working in cooperation with the Washington State Institute for Public Policy (WSIPP), the project seeks to examine the relative risk and associated needs that impact those released from state custody following a civil commitment. With the goal of creating a risk assessment tool, WSU seeks to provide an instrument that will assist assessment providers and policy makers with needed information at the time of release from custody.

Washington State Institute for Public Policy Report | pdf

Podcast- Predicting Criminal Behavior Through Risk Instruments

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Validation of the Positive Achievement Change Tool (PACT)
Funded by the Washington State Administrative Office of the Courts, this project is an expansive endeavor to combine collected static risk and dynamic items into a consolidated system of recidivism assessment and intervention recommendations. The outcome of this study will produce a validated risk assessment with superior performance for predicting juvenile offending within the state of Washington. This is a one-year project for $19,086.

PACT Research Brief | pdf

PACT Study Final |  pdf

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Multi-State Validation of Positive Achievement Change Tool (PACT)

The Positive Achievement Change Tool (PACT), a juvenile risk assessment instrument developed in Washington State was recently updated and recalibrated by WSU researchers with advancement strategies. Since the PACT has been used in multiple jurisdictions, one of the advanced methodological skills applied to the PACT was localization of assessment items through weighting. This study seeks to provide predictive validity of the updated version of the PACT for Delaware, Florida, Iowa, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and Wisconsin. By examining improved functionality of the PACT in the multiple states, this study will also provide the effects of localized weighting scheme.

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Prison Transfers and Violence
The prison transfers project introduces a new theory of inmate misconduct following the transfer of inmates between correctional institutions. Existing theory suggests that the immediate institutional environment and community environment from which inmates are imported influence infractions in the prison setting. This research proposed a third influence on infractions, namely the prison environment from which inmates are transferred out of having a lasting influence on misbehavior. Evidence supports the new theory, suggesting that inmates transferred from larger institutions with higher infraction rates, and to facilities with a different custody rating, commit more infractions following a transfer.

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Assessing the Behavior and Needs of Veterans with Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) in Washington State Prisons: Establishing a Foundation for Policy, Practice, and Education
In partnership with the Traumatic Brain Injury Strategic Partnership Advisory Council, WSU researchers are assessing incarcerated Veterans of the United States Armed Forces within Washington state prisons to determine whether traumatic brain injury (TBI) affects an individual’s prison experience, and in turn, one’s chances of success upon release from prison. Recent research indicates that an estimated 16% of Washington State Department of Corrections (WADOC) incarcerated veterans have experienced a moderate or severe TBI compared to 7.6% of the general inmate population, yet little more is known about these veterans and how they experience prison (Phillips, 2013). WSU researchers are examining individuals’ institutional behaviors, uses of medical services, and abilities to participate in offender change programs geared toward increasing prosocial behavior and reducing recidivism. This research will provide a foundation from which to build effective policy and evidence-based practice through a better understanding of incarcerated veterans with a TBI.

Research Brief | pdf

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Evaluation of Washington State’s Swift and Certain Policy for Community Supervision of Offenders

Funded by the Lewis and John Arnold Foundation (LJAF), this study seeks to examine findings from the statewide implementation of Washington State’s Swift and Certain (SAC) program. The program, modeled after the Hawaii HOPE project’s application of specific deterrence principles (Hawken and Kleiman, 2009), is the first statewide effort utilizing a large felony offender population (N~10,000). This a one-year project for $75,000.

Research Brief Washington State Swift and Certain | pdf

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Following a WSIPP meta-analysis of evidence-based practices in criminal justice, the Washington State Legislature created a provision to investigate the use of evidence-based programming for offender populations in the state and the recommended placement and commitment to stated programming. Working in collaboration with WADOC, WSU has sought to identify, describe, and investigate the available evidence surrounding all programming used for offender populations by the WADOC. With the intended goal of recommending programs to utilize and expand, WSU seeks to create a repository of evidence surrounding offender programing that can guide the DOC’s use of interventions going forward.
Research in Brief | pdf

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Correctional Industries Evaluation
The purpose of this study is to examine the relationship between inmate participation in Correctional Industries (CI) and subsequent criminogenic behavior — both during and following incarceration. Specifically, this study is concerned with how CI participation promotes pro-social offender change, which is measured by reductions in institutional infractions and recidivism, and increases in reentry success (i.e. sustained employment, adherence to supervision conditions). Contemporary research has highlighted the criminogenic benefits of education and vocation programing in prisons. However, few studies have isolated the effects of CI participation. Through the use of a quasi-experimental research design, including a propensity score matched comparison group, this study will highlight the unique contribution of CI participation to offender rehabilitation as well as institutional and community safety.

Research in Brief | pdf

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Community Supervision Dosage
Despite increasing community corrections populations, the recent economic downturn has forced states to reduce correctional budgets. With financial and security demands looming, correctional agencies are forced to be more efficient with limited resources. The underlying intent of the study is to identify a point of diminishing returns when community supervision can be reduced and ultimately terminated, while preserving (or reducing) the current levels of recidivism among community corrections participants. Cost-benefit analyses will supplement study findings identifying cost savings associated with reductions in supervision dosage and duration. Following the completion of project analyses the WSU-WADOC partnership will be extended, collaborating to develop new, evidenced-based supervision policies.

Snohomish County Adult and Family Drug Treatment Court Evaluation Project
This research includes a process, outcome and cost-benefit study of the Snohomish County Adult Drug Court (ADC) and Snohomish County Family Drug Treatment Court. The outcome evaluation is focused on assessing whether drug court participants remain crime free, complete treatment at greater rates than individuals who participate in the traditional system, and the impact of drug court participation on use of other social and health services (and the implications of these changes). The cost-benefit study compares the overall operational costs of the drug court program, assesses the cost of the traditional court and treatment process, and evaluates which agencies contribute to the drug court and traditional court process and at what cost. Findings are to be provided to Snohomish County officials via a draft evaluation report, a final evaluation report and a presentation of the final report to Snohomish County, including the County Council, Superior Court Judges and the Chemical Dependency/Mental Health Program Advisory Board by December, 2013.

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