Chapter 5: Case Assessment, Classification, and Management
Description of the Processes

As just discussed, there are several important reasons for having a case assessment, classification, and management process within the juvenile justice system. Key objectives of juvenile corrections are unlikely to be met fully without the benefit of assessment and classification. Table 5:a provides a brief description of several important terms for understanding case assessment, classification, and management. These will be expanded on later in this chapter.

Table 5:a Explanation of Key Terms
Risk assessment The process of using an empirically based, standardized, objective instrument to evaluate a youth’s background and current situation and estimate the likelihood that the youth will continue to be involved in delinquent behavior. In community corrections, the results of risk assessment may be used to specify the level or intensity of supervision needed; in residential settings, risk assessment results may determine the security level and living unit (Clear and Gallagher, 1983; Wiebush et al. ,1995).

Prediction A determination of behavior that can be expected in the future based on past behavior. Behaviors that occur less frequently, such as violence, are more difficult to predict, because there are fewer data upon which to determine a statistical probability that the behavior will be repeated (Gottfredson, 1987; Limandri and Sheridan, 1995; National Council on Crime and Delinquency, 1997).

Needs assessment A systematic process of identifying what the offender’s needs and problems are, how severe they are, and whether they are chronic or crisis needs and then using the information to determine the specific program interventions to be used for the youth (Krisberg et al., 1994; Peters, 1988; Wiebush et al., 1995).

Case classification The arrangement or grouping of persons according to a system, principles, or rules. Persons within a class are similar to one another but different from members of other groups (Gottfredson, 1987).

Override The process of overruling or changing classifications when factors are present that outweigh the category indicated by usual risk and needs assessment instruments. Mandatory overrides provide for automatic changes in classification when certain characteristics are present. Discretionary overrides allow staff to make exceptions in classification when they detect circumstances that are not captured by the risk or needs assessment instruments (Krisberg et al., 1994; Wiebush et al., 1995).

Case management The system by which an organization applies resources to meet client goals. Case management decisions affect allocation of resources, levels of service delivery, and budgetary practices (Burrell, 1998; Fulton, Stone, and Gendreau, 1994).

There are several issues that must be considered in developing a case assessment, classification, and management system within a jurisdiction or a juvenile corrections program. The following schematic (Figure 5:a) depicts each of these decision areas. Although they are presented and discussed in a sequential manner, in practice, it is likely that decisions made in one area will affect other areas. It may not be possible to complete one decision without considering other areas. Discussions about and actions affecting various aspects of program development likely will occur simultaneously or in a sequence that is different from the way in which they are discussed here.

Figure 5:a Decision Points for Case Assessment, Classification, and Management

Involve Key Stakeholders

As with other areas of program change, involvement and support from key stakeholders is essential in developing a case assessment, classification, and management policy. At a minimum, representatives from each organizational level should participate in the process of designing and implementing the program (Torbet, 1986). It is apparent that administrators and direct-service personnel should be included, but support personnel, who may have responsibilities for data entry and other tasks, should not be forgotten.

Other stakeholders outside the immediate program or agency also may be crucial. Their involvement will depend on how this program change may affect and be influenced by other systems players. For example, when making decisions about assessment and classification for either detention or probation, it might be necessary to have the support of the prosecutor and juvenile court, as decisions in either area may affect the prosecutorial and judicial systems. On the other hand, for the purpose of selecting the most appropriate housing arrangements, assessment and classification procedures within a secure juvenile corrections facility might involve only the agency personnel. As with other program development areas, consider involvement of the stakeholders listed in Table 5:b.

Table 5:b Potential Stakeholders for Program Development
  • Agency administrators and managers.
  • Program personnel.
  • Support staff.
Juvenile Justice System
  • Judges.
  • District attorneys.
  • Defense attorneys.
Other Systems
  • Educators.
  • Mental health professionals.
  • Protective services personnel.
  • Leaders from communities of faith.
  • Health care professionals.
  • Substance abuse treatment practitioners.
  • Public assistance specialists.
  • Employment specialists.
  • Organized recreation and leisure program leaders.
Elected Officials and Funding Sources
  • Executive Branch Officials.
  • Legislative Representatives.
  • Representatives of Funding Sources.
  • Victims and victims ’services agency staff.
  • Parents.
  • Neighborhood group leaders.
  • Other community leaders.

It may be most feasible to include various stakeholders at different times during the planning process. For example, when selecting risk assessment instruments and planning the classification process, agency and justice system representatives will be vital. However, when considering needs assessment and development of additional program options, many other stakeholders may have vested interests.

Determine Purpose and Goals

Clear (1978) states that case management is a process through which organizations apply resources to clients to meet organizational goals. For example, Wiebush et al. (1995) suggest that agencies emphasizing public safety and risk control will use risk assessments to determine supervision strategies, while agencies stressing a balance between public safety and youth's treatment needs will consider both the risk and needs assessment when determining a case plan. Those involved in developing jurisdiction or juvenile corrections programs must have a clear understanding of what they are doing and why they are doing it (Burrell, 1998).

Case assessment, classification, and management systems are tools for effective service delivery and can satisfy several objectives. However, it is important to decide at the beginning of the planning process the primary purpose or goals, secondary ones, and any objectives that will not be pursued.

Table 5:c provides an overview of some of the major goals of case assessment, classification, and management that have been identified through literature reviews. This is not an exhaustive list, nor are the categories mutually exclusive, but it may provide planners with ideas for selecting their program purpose and goals.

Table 5:c Possible Goals and Applications for Case Assessment, Classification, and Management
Type of Goal/PurposePossible Applications
1. To determine case plans for individual youth.
  • Conduct an individualized assessment of each youth.
  • Assess risk of recidivism.
  • Channel youth to programs and/or levels of supervision that best meet their needs and control risks.
  • Ensure youth are receiving equitable and consistent treatment compared with others with similar risks and needs.
  • Match identified needs with available resources.
  • Ensure that certain types of problems are considered for all cases.
  • Provide data for future monitoring of cases.
  • Identify youth for whom further indepth assessments are needed (Altschuler and Armstrong, 1994; Guarino-Ghezzi and Byrne, 1989; Krisberg et al., 1994; National Council on Crime and Delinquency, 1997; Wiebush et al., 1995).
2. To allocate resources appropriately and implement effective supervision policies.
  • Direct the most intensive interventions to the most serious, violent, and chronic offenders.
  • Set priorities for case plans.
  • Organize staff and other agency resources.
  • Determine workloads (Clear and Gallagher, 1983; Howell, 1995; Krisberg et al., 1994; National Council on Crime and Delinquency, 1997; Wiebush et al., 1995).
3. To provide justification and accountability for case decisions.
  • Reassess and evaluate effectiveness of case plans and program strategies.
  • Provide equal, nondiscriminatory treatment (Krisberg et al., 1994; National Council on Crime and
  • Delinquency, 1997; Wiebush et al., 1995)
4. To enhance other parts of the juvenile justice system.
  • Develop formalized procedures, such as sentencing guidelines.
  • Provide recommendations to juvenile court (e.g., through presentence reports)(National Council on Crime and Delinquency, 1997; Wiebush et al., 1995).
5. To gather program data and evaluate programs.
  • Collect uniform statistical data on results of assessments and provision of services.
  • Use data to plan, monitor, and evaluate programs (Krisberg et al., 1994; National Council on Crime and Delinquency, 1997).
6. To conduct research on programs and juveniles.
  • Test hypotheses about programs and youth (Gottfredson, 1987).

Several components and processes of the juvenile justice system were described in Chapter 2 of this manual. At each of these junctures, youth may be assessed, classified, and sorted for case management purposes. For example, at case intake, the task is determining whether or not the case falls under the purview of the juvenile court and whether the case should proceed to a formal court hearing or be handled informally. At the detention stage, although information may be limited, decisions must be reached about whether juveniles pose a danger to the community or themselves and whether there is a risk they will abscond before their court hearing if released. When a case is formally processed in juvenile court, several decisions must be made by judges. For the most serious offenses, cases may be waived to the criminal courts. For those handled by the juvenile justice system, judges must determine whether youth can be supervised in the community on probation or should be placed in secure care. In community corrections, youth must be assessed and classified according to risks for continued delinquency and needs for program services. Within residential facilities, staff must assess youth's potential for escape, violence toward others, or self-harm and also determine the treatment resources needed by each youth (Binder, Geis, and Bruce, 1997; Howell, 1995; Parent et al., 1994).

Because this manual focuses primarily on juvenile corrections, the following information relates to corrections programs. It is important to remember, however, that decisions made for each component of the juvenile justice system will affect other parts of the system. Table 5:d provides a summary of the reasons, risk measures, and processes related to classification within juvenile corrections programs.

Table 5:d Summary of Classification in Juvenile Corrections
Juvenile Corrections Component Reasons for Classifying Youth Primary Risk Measures Processes
  • Community safety.
  • Youth ’s personal safety.
  • Risk of failing to appear for a court hearing.
  • Population management.
  • Program evaluation.
  • Seriousness of current offense.
  • Recency and frequency of prior offenses.
  • Whether youth was under court supervision at time of current offense.
  • Stability measures (e.g.,a history of escapes or runaways)
  • Confinement or release.
  • Community-based corrections2
  • Public safety/risk control (risk of recidivism).
  • Youth’s service needs (for habilitation/rehabilitation).
  • Management of resources.
  • Program evaluation.
  • Age at first referral/adjudication.
  • Prior out-of-home placements.
  • Prior arrests.
  • Academic achievement.
  • School behavior and attendance.
  • Substance abuse.
  • Family stability.
  • Parental control.
  • Peer relationships. (Additional risk factors often are included. Assessment of needs also may be conducted and factored into decisions.)
  • Risk and needs assessment.
  • Determination of supervision level (e.g., number and type of contacts).
  • Development of case plan; determination of services to be provided.
  • Residential placement
  • Inmate, staff, and community protection (e.g., risk of escape, suicide, and/or assaultive behavior).
  • Offender treatment needs matched with appropriate programs.
  • Resource and population management.
  • Program evaluation.
  • Number and seriousness of prior offenses.
  • Seriousness of the committing offense.
  • Age at first adjudication.
  • Emotional stability/mental health needs.
  • Family problems/parental control.
  • School problems.
  • Intellectual ability.
  • Substance abuse.
  • Risk assessment.
  • Risk and needs assessment.
  • Assignment of youth to appropriate (and least restrictive) security levels, facilities, and/or living units.
  • Selection of programs and services needed by youth.
  • 1 Detention programs vary from one jurisdiction to another. Detention is most commonly used to confine youth between arrest and adjudication. However, in some jurisdictions, it may be used as a short-term sanction for adjudicated youth. In structure and function, detention is similar to other residential juvenile corrections programs. Therefore, it is included at this point with other juvenile corrections programs.

    2 Community-based corrections programs include probation, aftercare, and parole.

    Sources: Burrell,W.D., 1998; National Council on Crime and Delinquency, 1997; Parent, D.G., et al., 1994; Torbet, P., 1986; Wiebush, R.C., et al., 1995; Wright, K.N., 1988.

    Select or Develop Appropriate Instruments

    Assessment instruments are standardized tools composed of a limited set of factors that are most relevant to the type of decision being made (e.g., treatment, incapacitation, and/or supervision). For effective case classification, these instruments should be administered to all cases, and the results should be used to classify youth according to preset criteria (Howell, 1995; National Council on Crime and Delinquency, 1997; Wiebush et al., 1995).

    Effective classification requires prediction through which knowledge of past events is used to form expectations of future behavior. As Gottfredson (1987:6) states, "We must live forward but seek to understand backward." Prediction is really a summary of the past to guide future decisions, assuming there will be a degree of consistency over time (Gottfredson, 1987). Therefore, assessments use demographic, criminal, and behavioral characteristics to sort youth according to their anticipated level of misconduct (Wright, 1988).

    Clinical and actuarial assessments may be used to classify youth. Clinical methods depend on the experience and more subjective judgments of the individual assessor. Actuarial methods rely on probabilities to discriminate among potential rates of future behaviors or events, similar to the types of calculations used to determine insurance premiums. Predictions are based on objective, standardized, and empirical risk measures, including historical data on offender characteristics and outcomes (Boone and Fulton, 1995; Clear and Gallagher, 1983; National Council on Crime and Delinquency, 1997). Prediction is an important concept in assessment and classification. Prediction, in this instance, is related to the notion of probability that implies an event is likely, but not certain, to occur. Probability is determined by statistical analysis of comparable cases with the same characteristics. In other words, a youth's future behavior is forecasted based on the known outcomes of a similar group of youth.

    Assessment instruments are effective in predicting that most youth within a certain classification group will act in anticipated ways (e.g., recidivate, successfully complete treatment). However, these instruments will not always accurately predict an individual youth's behavior (Clear and Gallagher, 1983). Nevertheless, the instruments provide an effective tool for classifying and managing caseloads of youth.

    Three types of assessment instruments will be discussed in this chapter:

    • Risk assessment.
    • Placement or custody assessment.
    • Needs assessment.

    Risk Assessment Instruments. Risk assessment instruments "estimate the likelihood that an identified juvenile offender will subsequently commit another offense within a specified follow-up period, and are based on the statistical relationship between youth characteristics and recidivism" (Wiebush et al., 1995). Historical data on offender traits and case outcomes are used to establish which factors are most closely linked with unfavorable case outcomes (National Council on Crime and Delinquency, 1997). Two categories of risk factors are related to criminal activity: prior criminal history and stability factors (Krisberg et al., 1994). Factors associated with each of these categories are listed in Table 5:e.

    Table 5:e Factors Related to Recidivism


    • Age at first referral/adjudication.
    • Number of prior offenses.
    • Type and severity of most recent offense.
    • Prior assaults.
    • Abuse/neglect victimization.
    • Gender.
    • Prior adjustment to supervision.

    • Substance abuse.
    • Number of prior out-of-home placements or commitments.
    • Family relationships, stability, and parental control.
    • School problems (achievement, behavior, attendance).
    • Peer relationships.
    • Special education placement.
    • Mental health stability.
    • Running away from home.

    Sources: Krisberg, B., et al., 1994; Torbet, P., 1986; Wiebush, R.C., et al., 1995.

    Historical factors are considered static, as they are fixed in time and cannot be changed (Boone and Fulton, 1995). The first two historical factors listed in Table 5:e—age and prior offenses—are considered core variables identified repeatedly by research studies as predictors for juvenile recidivism. The other five historical factors are also included in several risk instruments (Wiebush et al., 1995).

    Stability factors may be amenable to change with appropriate interventions (Boone and Fulton, 1995). The first five stability factors listed in Table 5:e—substance abuse, number of placements, family stability and control, school problems, and peer relationships—constitute core factors associated with juvenile recidivism. The remaining stability factors also are incorporated in some risk assessment instruments (Wiebush et al., 1995).

    Seriousness of juvenile offenses has not been found in research studies to be strongly correlated with a probability of future offending. In fact, some studies have shown an inverse relationship (Altschuler and Armstrong, 1994; Wiebush et al., 1995). Although risk assessment instruments are usually reliable for predicting general rates of recidivism among groups of juveniles, they are not as effective in estimating recidivism for specific types of crime, especially violent crimes. The incidence of violent crimes is relatively low, and it is difficult to statistically isolate factors that will differentiate accurately between youth who will and will not commit violent offenses (Wiebush et al., 1995).

    Risk assessment instruments are commonly used to determine supervision levels for youth on probation and aftercare/parole. Attachments A, B, and C provide examples of risk assessment instruments that are widely used.

    Placement or Custody Assessment Instruments. Custody assessment instruments serve three primary purposes:

    • To screen youth for detention or release prior to an adjudicatory hearing.

    • To guide judges or corrections professionals in deciding the most appropriate placement or security level for youth.

    • To determine the custody needs of incarcerated youth.

    Policy considerations, rather than research findings, are more likely to be the basis of custody assessment instruments (Wiebush et al., 1995).

    Detention Screening Instruments. Instruments used to determine whether or not a youth should be placed in detention typically focus on the juvenile's immediate threat to public safety and likelihood of fleeing prior to the court hearing. Detention screening instruments usually contain two categories of measures: public safety risk and stability. Table 5:f lists common examples in each category (Howell, 1995; Wiebush et al., 1995).

    Table 5:f Detention Screening Instrument Categories

    Public Safety Risk

    • Current offense (including level of violence).
    • Recency and frequency of prior offenses.
    • Whether or not the juvenile was under court supervision when the current offense was committed.

    • Out-of-home placements.
    • Substance abuse.

    Note: Attachment D provides an example of a detention screening instrument.
    Sources: Howell, J.C., 1995;Wiebush, R.C., et al., 1995.

    Placement Assessments. Concerns for selecting placement restrictiveness in proportion to the severity of the crime (a "just deserts" perspective) and the level of control needed to manage the potential risk to public safety posed by a youth are reflected in these instruments. Placement assessments are used to differentiate between youth who require secure incarceration to ensure public safety and those whose risk is sufficiently low to allow them to be supervised in the community. Youth who score in the middle range of these instruments sometimes are placed in secure care for a short time and then moved to a less restrictive placement. The items used in the instruments usually reflect consensus among stakeholders rather than research findings, and the instruments usually contain combinations of items that assess the severity of present and previous offenses and the youth's potential for reoffending (Howell, 1995; Wiebush et al., 1995).

    Items contained in placement assessment instruments often include the following (Howell, 1995; Wiebush et al., 1995):

    • Current and prior offense severity.

    • Offense history (e.g., use of weapon, multiple felonies, number of prior adjudications).

    • Success of prior interventions.

    Some placement decision tools use an empirically based risk assessment instrument that measures risk of reoffending coupled with assessment of the nature of the current and most serious prior offenses. A matrix format is then used to examine both risk and proportionality to determine the appropriate placement (Howell, 1995; Wiebush et al., 1995).

    Attachments E, F, G, and H provide examples of placement assessment instruments.

    Custody Assessments. These instruments usually are employed in youth corrections facilities to assess youth's potential for disruptive behavior and harm to themselves or others while in the institution. Assaults on staff or peers, escapes, and suicide are common concerns. The assessment instruments are used to classify youth according to the level of security they need in their living environment (Howell, 1995; Wiebush et al., 1995).

    Measurement items often contained on custody assessment instruments include:

    • Offense severity.
    • Number and severity of previous offenses.
    • Age at first adjudication.
    • Aggressive/assaultive behaviors.
    • Property offenses.
    • Misconduct reports.
    • Escapes/runaways.
    • Parental control.
    • Emotional stability.
    • Success or problems with program participation and furloughs.

    Attachments I, J, and K are examples of custody assessment instruments.

    Needs Assessment Instruments. Needs assessment instruments often are administered with risk or placement/custody instruments. Needs assessment instruments are used to identify serious offender problems, and the results are used to match youth with appropriate programs. These instruments basically provide a description of a juvenile's functioning. Needs items usually are factors or characteristics that can be changed with intervention. The instruments generally are developed through a consensus process rather than through research (Howell, 1995; Wiebush et al., 1995).

    Items most frequently addressed in needs assessment instruments include (Altschuler and Armstrong, 1994; Howell, 1995; Wiebush et al., 1995):

    • Substance abuse.
    • Family functioning and relationships.
    • Emotional stability.
    • School attendance.
    • Peer relationships.
    • Health/hygiene.
    • Cognitive/intellectual ability or achievement.
    • Learning disability.

    Other measures included in some needs assessment instruments are (Altschuler and Armstrong, 1994; Howell, 1995; Wiebush et al., 1995):

    • Parents' problems (e.g., substance abuse, mental health, criminality) and parenting skills.
    • Housing/residential stability.
    • Financial resources.
    • Child abuse or neglect.
    • Sexual adjustment.
    • Vocational/employment concerns.
    • Involvement in structured activities.
    • Independent living skills.
    • Communication skills.

    Whichever items are selected for a needs assessment instrument, it is vital that there be clear definitions and scoring criteria to achieve consistency in assessments (Howell, 1995; Wiebush et al., 1995). Attachment L is an example of a needs assessment instrument.

    A significant amount of research on assessment instruments has been undertaken, and several good instruments have been developed for juvenile and adult populations. Existing assessment instruments can be adopted for specific jurisdictions or programs. However, risk assessment instruments should be validated at a local level. To do this, a risk assessment instrument is administered to a sample population and recidivism rates of the population are tracked. If necessary, the points or weights assigned to certain levels may be changed to more accurately reflect the characteristics correlated with recidivism. Additional items also may be added to the instrument if they are found to occur with substantial frequency among the sample population (National Council on Crime and Delinquency, 1997).

    Develop Necessary Policies and Procedures for Case Classification and Management

    Case classification and management are both the purpose for and outcomes of client assessment procedures. Classification and management are very similar concepts that often overlap in practice. However, for clarity, they are discussed as separate components in this section.

    Classification. Gottfredson (1987:1) states:

    Classification refers either to the arrangement or division of entities into groups according to some system or principle or to the placement of entities into groups according to rules already determined . . . . [U]sually it means the allocation of persons to initially undefined classes in such a way that the persons in a class are in some way similar or close to each other . . . . [T]he aim is to develop groups whose members are similar to one another and who differ from members of other groups (Gottfredson, 1987:1).

    The process of classification involves grouping youth with similar characteristics, usually determined by their scores on assessment instruments (Clear and Gallagher, 1983). The basis of classification may include:

    • Risk of recidivism.
    • Detention decisions.
    • Placement considerations.
    • Custody levels within facilities.
    • Clients' service needs.
    • Some combination of these areas.

    Case classification, based on structured assessment processes, promotes rational, consistent, and equitable methods of supervising and providing services for clients (Peters, 1988). Depending on the type of corrections program, juveniles are placed in detention or released, assigned levels and types of community supervision, placed in different institutions and security levels, and provided with specific services based on their classification.

    There are several tasks that should be undertaken and decisions that must be made to develop an effective classification policy. These include the following:

    • Ensure that the rationale is readily apparent and accepted by staff and administrators (Torbet, 1986).

    • Set clear criteria for client eligibility or placement in various programs or levels of intervention. Determine the number of levels of supervision, security, etc. Establish standards for supervision or security that differ substantially for each level. In general, those at the highest risk level should receive the most intensive services (National Council on Crime and Delinquency, 1997; Peters, 1988; Wiebush et al., 1995).

    • Determine which assessment instrument (e.g., risk, needs, placement) will be given precedence in determining a youth's classification, or develop a system for integrating the results of two types of assessments. Some jurisdictions or programs use a matrix system that takes both risks and needs into consideration (Peters, 1988).

    • Select cutoff scores for assessment instruments that will result in appropriate workload levels for staff, least restrictive program placement for youth, and protection of youth, staff, and the public. Make the scoring system simple to complete (Clear and Gallagher, 1983; Parent et al., 1994; Torbet, 1986).

    • Decide how frequently cases will be reassessed and reclassified, if appropriate. With youth, reassessments often occur every 90 days. At reassessment and reclassification, the youth's adjustment should be recognized rather than relying strictly on risk factors (Peters, 1988; Torbet, 1986; Wiebush et al., 1995).

    • Decide when, where, and how assessment and classification will be completed and who will take responsibility for the process (Peters, 1988).

    • Establish a method whereby staff may override a youth's assessment score if a different level of supervision, security, or programming is deemed necessary. As explained in Table 5:a, overrides may be mandatory (i.e., if certain conditions exist, youth must be placed at a different level regardless of the overall score) or discretionary (i.e., staff may consider factors that are not captured in the risk or needs assessment instruments). There also should be a limit on the number of overrides in the classification system. Some suggest that no more than 15 percent of classifications should result from overrides (Krisberg et al., 1994; Wiebush et al., 1995).

    • Incorporate classification into the agency's recordkeeping system for monitoring, evaluation, and planning purposes.

    Management. Management processes may be applied at the individual case level or at the program, agency, or jurisdictional level. When a youth is assessed and classified at a particular level of risk, security, and/or need, a corresponding case management approach should be implemented. Case management helps match youth with program alternatives that are most likely to effect behavior change. It also helps determine the level of resources that should be devoted to the case. Additionally, the youth's progress and the effectiveness of the case plan can be evaluated (Gottfredson, 1987; Torbet, 1986).

    At the program, agency, or jurisdictional level, case assessment, classification, and management have many applications. A variety of benefits accrue through the case management process. These include (Altschuler and Armstrong, 1994; Clear and Gallagher, 1983; Torbet, 1986; Wiebush et al., 1995):

    • Information for setting priorities among many competing needs.
    • Ability to develop workload standards and requirements for staff.
    • Mechanisms for evaluating case plans and services provided.
    • Aggregate data for planning, budgeting, monitoring, and evaluation.

    When assessment, classification, and management procedures are developed, attention should also be given to these benefits. Processes should be developed for capturing and using data from the system that will assist with other tasks.

    Procure Needed Resources

    Another important part of the planning process for developing a case assessment, classification, and management strategy is to identify and obtain resources needed to implement the strategy effectively. Initially, there will be a need for additional training and supervision of staff until they are competent and comfortable in using the system.

    The agency or jurisdiction also may need additional computer capabilities to effectively compile and analyze the data the system will generate. As discussed previously, such data can be crucial for several types of management decisions.

    Train Staff

    An important component of any new initiative is staff training. Use of assessment instruments and classification systems will require staff to develop new skills. A training curriculum should be developed and implemented, including background information about the development of the system and instruments, the rationale for the program, and the association between assessments and case plans. Staff also will need practice opportunities to develop skills in conducting assessments, determining appropriate service levels and/or overrides, developing effective case plans, monitoring youth's progress, conducting reassessments, compiling necessary data, operating any related computer programs and equipment, and evaluating their performance of assessment and classification tasks.

    Not only should staff be trained when a new assessment and classification system begins, but they also must receive periodic reviews and updates on any changes made. In addition, provisions must be in place for new staff to receive training when they are hired.

    Assess and Develop Needed Program Options

    Developing a classification system may make it evident that some resources needed for a comprehensive continuum of services are not available. Some youth may need levels of supervision (such as intensive supervision) or services (such as mental health or substance abuse treatment) that are not available or are available in insufficient quantities to meet assessed needs. This may require the development of new services or the realignment or modification of existing ones.

    Evaluate the Program

    Boone and Fulton (1995) present a five-step model for developing performance-based measures. The steps are:

    • Clarifying values.
    • Defining a mission.
    • Clarifying organizational goals.
    • Selecting activities that support organizational goals.
    • Identifying performance-based measurements.

    Both the process and the outcome of the client assessment and classification system should be evaluated. As suggested by the steps above, the specific evaluation approach and activities will depend upon the purpose and goals selected for the project. If the primary goal is to increase public safety, recidivism rates should be monitored. On the other hand, if the primary goal is offender change, then results of treatment interventions will be important. It is likely that there will be several areas to evaluate.

    Process evaluations measure the implementation of the program. For example, they may answer questions such as the following:

    • How many youth were assessed and classified?

    • Are staff completing assessment instruments correctly and on time?

    • Are youth being placed in appropriate program options based on their assessment and classification levels?

    • How many overrides are applied to classification levels?

    Outcome measures determine whether a program achieves the desired results. Depending on the specific needs and risks of a youth, examples of questions that may indicate outcome measures include the following:

    • Has the assessed offender been successful in the programs and services indicated by his or her classification level and needs assessment?

    • At reassessment, has the youth's level of risks and needs declined?

    • Has the client's use of alcohol and other drugs


    • Has the client's school performance improved?

    Aggregate outcome measures for the program or agency also are important. By compiling and analyzing assessment and classification data, it is possible to answer questions such as:

    • Has the percentage of positive urinalyses declined?

    • Have there been fewer behavioral disruptions, assaults, escapes, and suicide attempts by youth in the institution?

    • Have youth exempted from detention attended their subsequent court hearings?

    • Have recidivism rates declined?

    • Have youth successfully completed treatment programs?

    • How many youth are attending school regularly?

    • What percentage of youth on probation have gone back to court?

    By answering questions such as those just listed, it is possible to ascertain whether or not the assessment and classification program is effective in placing youth at the level of supervision or security and in the specific intervention programs they need. If not, the assessment and classification program may need to be revised, or the supervision, custody, and treatment programs may need to be modified to more adequately meet youth's needs.

    Chapter 5 Contents

    Previous Contents Next

    Jurisdictional Technical Assistance Package for Juvenile Corrections Report - December 2000