The Politics and Legal Implication of Youth Risk/Need Assessments

Paula Maurutto, University of Windsor

Since the mid-1990s, Canada and the United States have seen an expansion of youth risk/need assessment tools in corrections. Young offenders are now classified according to computer-generated statistical profiles that identify the degree of risk, or the probability, that a youth will re-offend. The intent is to make juvenile justice decision making more objective and scientific by relying on statistical information rather than subjective diagnoses of clinicians. The result has been an increasingly technocratic and calculated system of governing.

The paper draws on interviews with government researchers, policy developers, probation officers and correction workers in all of Canada's 13 provinces and territories. The paper seeks to i) undetstand the concepts of 'risk' and 'need' as it relates to assessments of youth; ii) provide a theoretical critique of risk/needs assessments, and iii) discusses the legal implications of their use.

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Updated 05/20/2006