Validity of Commonly-Cited Risk and Protective Factors for Assessing Release Readiness Among Incarcerated Delinquents

Bruce Frederick, NYS Div. of Criminal Justice Services
Susan E. Eastman, NYS Div. of Criminal Justice Services
Dina Roy, NYS Div. of Criminal Justice Services
Andree Rose, NYS Div. of Criminal Justice Services

Comprehensive reviews and meta-analyses of longitudinal research have fostered growing consensus concerning the risk and protective factors associated with onset of serious and violent delinquency. However, the factors that predict recidivism or the timing of desistance among youth with a history of serious delinquency are not necessarily the same as the factors that predict onset. This distinction is critical for the design of programs for serious and chronic delinquents, given the increasing acceptance of the "risk principle" of case classification and the "need principle" for focusing on "criminogenic needs" in selecting appropriate intermediate targets for intervention.

This paper synthesizes information gleaned from four evaluation studies examining recidivism among adjudicated youth placed in the custody of the New York State Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS). In all four studies, many of the variables commonly cited as risk and protective factors have failed to predict recidivism among the serious and chronic delinquents placed in state custody, while other variables have appeared to take on correspondingly greater importance. It is argued that the findings cannot be explained as a simple statistical artifact of restriction of range, and alternative explanations are discussed.

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Updated 05/20/2006