Risks, Needs and Effectiveness in British Probation Services

Peter Raynor, University of Wales

During the last four years probation services in Britain have become increasingly interested in the potential of risk/needs assessment techniques, both to help with decision-making about individual offenders and to contribute to evaluating the effectiveness of services. This paper reports the key findings of pilot sutdies of the introduction of the Canadian Level of Service Inventory-Revised (LSI-R) in Britain, and of a recent Home Office funded study of LSI-$ and the locally developed Assessment, Case Management and Evaluation system (ACE). The findings include data on how well risk/need instruments predict further offending; how they compare with prediction methods based on age, sex and criminal history only; what needs they highlight among offenders in Britain; what changes in needs profiles are found during probation supervision, and how far these changes are related to reconviction. The paper also draws on these findings to assess the potential contribution of risk/need assement techniques in the British policy context: in particular, are these techniques primarily of interest to managers in pursuite of new forms of monitoring and accountability, or do they open up more possibilities for effective rehabilitation in a system which is currently intended by policy-makers to deliver 'punishment in the community'?

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Updated 05/20/2006