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Advancing Fairness and Transparency: National Guidelines for Post-Conviction Risk and Needs Assessment


Legislators are uniquely positioned to ensure that the criminal justice agencies they fund are employing risk and needs assessment in a way that promotes accuracy, fairness, transparency, and effective communication and use.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Criminal justice agencies in all 50 states, territories, and the District of Columbia use risk and needs assessments to support the success of people who are incarcerated, on probation, or on parole. But there is inconsistent—and sometimes nonexistent—policy guiding their use. Newly released by the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Justice Programs’ Bureau of Justice Assistance and The Council of State Governments (CSG) Justice Center under the Justice Reinvestment Initiative, the Advancing Fairness and Transparency: National Guidelines for Post-Conviction Risk and Needs Assessment set practical benchmarks for agencies.

Why are these guidelines needed?

  • There are valid and growing concerns about accuracy, fairness, transparency, and communication in the use of risk and needs assessment.
  • Risk and needs assessment results are not used enough to inform case decisions and management.
  • Criminal justice agencies have not been given the guidance they need to communicate the strengths and limitations of risk and needs assessment.
  • People who are being assessed rarely receive information about these assessments, how they work, and what they will be used to determine.

What do the guidelines do?

  • Provide agencies with field-tested, practical advice.
  • Prioritize accuracy, fairness, and transparency in the communication and use of risk and needs assessment.
  • Minimize potentially problematic aspects of the use of risk and needs assessment instruments.
  • Outline how to better engage all stakeholders.
  • Provide clarity for agency staff.

What are the benefits?

  • Mitigation of potential bias and disparities.
  • More informed case planning, which leads to increased success.
  • Preparedness to respond to external criticism, legal challenges, and political challenges related to risk and needs assessment.
  • Cost savings from increased success of people under correctional supervision.
  • Increased accountability, which leads to greater buy-in and trust from the community.

Where can I learn more?


Justice Center: The Council of State Governments
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Copyright 2024 The Council of State Governments. All Rights Reserved.

This project was supported by Grant No. 2019-ZB-BX-K002 awarded by the Bureau of Justice Assistance. The Bureau of Justice Assistance is a component of the Department of Justice’s 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 Office of Sex Offender Sentencing, Monitoring, Apprehending, Registering, and Tracking. 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.