Use of Valid Actuarial Assessments of Risk and Needs

Goals of this Guide, and How to Use It

This Action Guide, Use of Sound, Actuarial Assessments for Risk and Needs, is designed to help parole boards improve and strengthen their practice by incorporating empirically valid information on offender risk and need factors into release, condition setting, and revocation decision-making. It is one in a series of  Action Guides developed by the National Parole Resource Center (NPRC) and builds upon the NPRC's Self-Assessment Toolkit for Paroling Authorities, an online guide that identifies ten practice targets paroling authorities should consider implementing to assist them in achieving their public safety and risk reduction goals. 

Each Action Guide addresses a different practice target and provides parole board members the opportunity to consider each of the targets—explained in the Toolkit—in more depth.1 It is strongly recommended that parole boards use the Toolkit as a first step before using this Action Guide—or any of the Guides in the series. The Toolkit reviews all of the practice targets, their basis in the research, and engages the user – through a series of questions – in a process of considering broadly how they see their current practices in each area. The Action Guides then support a Board in moving toward significant practice improvements in each area.

This Action Guide on Use of Valid Actuarial Assessments of Risk and Needs is intended to assist parole board chairs, members, and staff to:

When used effectively by a board committed to improving public safety, this Action Guide will enable that agency to: understand and utilize actuarial risk and need information about offenders, integrate this information into release decision-making and condition-setting, and target conditions to appropriately fit with offender risk and need  factors.


This guide is presented in sections to facilitate its use:

 1 Use of Valid Actuarial Assessments of Risk and Needs; Development and Use of Evidence-Based Decisionmaking Tools, Policies and Guidelines; Strategies for Maintaining Meaningful Partnerships to Support  Sound Decisionmaking, Seamless Transition of Offenders from Prison to the Community, and Assuring the Availability and Targeting of Effective Programs; Release Considerations with Low Risk Offenders; The Parole Interview as an Opportunity to Enhance Motivation to Change; A Strategic Approach to Setting Parole Conditions; A Strategic Approach to Responding to Parole Violations; and An Action Guide for Strengthening Operations:  Individual Decisionmaking and Policy Development.


This project was supported by Grant No. 2010-DJ-BX-K140 awarded by the Bureau of Justice Assistance. The Bureau of Justice Assistance is a component of the Office of Justice Programs, which also includes the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the National Institute of Justice, the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, the Office for Victims of Crime, and the SMART Office. Points of view or opinions in this document are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.


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