1st Edition

Juvenile Risk and Needs Assessment Theory, Research, Policy, and Practice

    218 Pages 8 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    218 Pages 8 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    This book takes a comprehensive, analytic approach to understanding Juvenile Risk and Needs Assessment (JRNA), covering elements relevant to how the practice affects youths’ cases and the juvenile justice system. The work draws on both analysis of the extensive research on risk and needs assessment in the juvenile justice system as well as data from the authors’ recent work in the area.

    Authors Sullivan and Childs have extensive experience in teaching about and doing research on the juvenile justice system, including multiple studies on juvenile risk and needs assessment tools and their implementation. This expansive, integrative book leaves readers with a realistic sense of "where things stand" on the theory, research, policy, and practice of JRNA. By bringing together existing ideas and assessing them in depth, it identifies possible future paths and sparks ideas for improving the juvenile justice response to delinquent and at-risk youths.

    Juvenile Risk and Needs Assessment is essential reading for scholars of juvenile justice system impact and reform as well as practitioners engaged in youth and juvenile justice work ranging from the preventive to the rehabilitative stages.

    Chapter 1: Risk and Needs Assessment and Effective Juvenile Justice Practice

    The Scope of JRNA

    Reaching Conclusions

    Understudied Aspects of Juvenile Risk and Needs Assessment

    A Settled Research Area?

    Labels, Judgment, and Assessment of Youths

    Research, Technology, and Fairness in JRNA Usage

    A More Complete Consideration of JRNA

    Chapter 2: Contemporary Juvenile Risk and Needs Assessment

    JRNA Terminology

    A Brief History of JRNA

    Generations of Criminogenic Risk and Need Assessment Instruments

    JRNA Process

    The Various Functions of JRNA

    Case Decisions and Performance

    Agency Decisions and Optimal Performance

    Studies of JRNA Performance

    JRNA Validity Across Youth Subgroups

    Summary of JRNA Predictive Validity Studies

    The Limitations of JRNA Research

    Chapter Summary

    Chapter 3: Logic and Use of JRNA

    Risk, Needs, and Responsivity

    JRNA Logic Model





    External Factors Influencing the Use of JRNA

    Chapter Summary

    Chapter 4: Implementation and Practice of Juvenile Risk and Needs Assessment

    The Implementation Environment Surrounding JRNA

    Outer Implementation Context: Public Infrastructure and JRNA Implementation

    Inner Implementation Context: Agency and Staff Characteristics

    Implementation Frameworks and JRNA

    Variability in JRNA Implementation

    JRNA as An Innovation

    Key Implementation Components and JRNA

    Considering Context and Assessing Readiness for Change

    Selecting Appropriate Tools

    Rollout Processes, Staff Buy-In, and JRNA

    Impact of Staff Attitudes and Buy-In

    Staff Experience and Skills

    Promoting User Confidence and Efficacy

    Training and Engagement with Key Personnel

    Sustainability, Quality Assurance, and Continued Improvement

    Key Lessons and Challenges of JRNA Implementation and Use

    Chapter Summary

    Chapter 5: Doing Justice and Juvenile Risk and Needs Assessment

    Political and Legal Framework for Use of JRNA

    Potential Causes for Concern

    Labeling and Locating Risk

    Balancing Risks with Strengths

    Race and Ethnic Disparities

    Gender Disparities

    Development, Change, and Dynamic Assessment

    Resources, Placements, and Level of Control

    Chapter Summary

    Chapter 6: Returning to Underlying Theory and Principles

    Theoretical Origins and Foundations

    Clinical and Statistical Judgment

    Risk, Needs, and Responsivity (RNR) Framework

    Measurement and Methodology

    Data and Measurement in JRNA Research

    JRNA and Decision-Making

    Decision Theory

    Focal Concerns

    Attribution Theory

    Heuristics and Biases in Decision-Making

    Collaborative Researcher-Practitioner Partnerships


    Multiple Sources of Knowledge

    Social Action

    Chapter Summary

    Chapter 7: The Next Generation of Juvenile Risk and Needs Assessment

    Summary of Key Conclusions

    A Next Generation JRNA Research Agenda

    Logic and Theory of JRNA

    Studies of Assessments

    Studies of Assessment Usage and the Logic Model

    Studies of Implementation and Use

    Next Generation JRNA Policy

    Next Generation JRNA Implementation and Usage

    The Future of JRNA: Theory, Research, Policy, and Practice


    Christopher J. Sullivan is Professor and Director of the School of Criminal Justice and Criminology at Texas State University. He received his doctorate from Rutgers University in 2005. His research interests include developmental and life-course criminology; juvenile delinquency and juvenile justice; and research and analytic methods. He has published more than 90 journal articles and book chapters on those and related topics. He is author of Taking Juvenile Justice Seriously: Developmental Insights and System Challenges (Temple University Press, 2019), which was selected as an Outstanding Contribution by the American Society of Criminology’s Division of Developmental and Life Course Criminology in 2020. Dr. Sullivan has been named a 250th Anniversary Fellow at Rutgers University and a Fellow of the Graduate School at the University of Cincinnati for his research and has received award recognition for his mentoring and teaching of graduate students and academic service. He has been data analyst or Principal Investigator (PI) on several federally or state-funded projects in juvenile justice practice and policy. Professor Sullivan has been Co-Editor of the Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency since 2017.

    Kristina K. Childs is an Associate Professor in the Department of Criminal Justice at the University of Central Florida. She received her doctoral degree in Criminology from the University of South Florida in 2008. Then, she was a post-doctoral fellow for the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation’s Models for Change: Systems Reform in Juvenile Justice initiative in Louisiana. Her main research interests include juvenile risk and need assessment practices, evaluation of prevention and intervention programs for at-risk youths, and the effectiveness of mental health and de-escalation training and education for front-line juvenile justice decision-makers. She has published more than 25 academic articles and book chapters on juvenile justice issues. To support her research, she has received over $1 million in external grants from the National Institute of Justice, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, and the Bureau of Justice Assistance.