In the last section, we frequently used the terms risk and needs. In this section, you will learn the research behind the risk-need-responsivity (RNR) model and why this model is an important concept to understand when carrying out the 10 tasks outlined in the Targeted Intervention Strategies section of the TJC Implementation Roadmap.
Researchers have spent years formulating the principles of effective intervention strategies for correctional populations. Many researchers support the risk-need-responsivity (RNR) model, which states that the risk and needs of the incarcerated individual should determine the strategies appropriate for addressing the individual’s criminogenic factors before and after release.
According to Don Andrews and James Bonta, leading criminal justice scholars, the RNR model is based on the following three principles:1
1. Risk principle. Match the level of service to the offender’s risk of reoffending, based on static factors (e.g., age at first arrest, history of arrest, current age) and dynamic factors (e.g., substance abuse, antisocial attitudes). Higher-risk offenders should receive more intensive intervention.
2. Need principle. Assess criminogenic needs and target them in treatment. High-risk offenders should receive intensive treatment, while low-risk offenders should receive minimal or no treatment.
3. Responsivity principle. Maximize the offender’s ability to learn from a rehabilitative intervention by providing cognitive behavioral treatment and tailoring the intervention to the learning style, motivation, abilities, and strengths of the offender.
Criminogenic needs are dynamic (changeable) risk factors that are proven through research to affect recidivism. These factors include:2
Criminologist Edward Latessa believes that programming focused on cognitive behavioral therapy is the most effective way to treat criminogenic needs. As he states, “Thinking and behavior are linked: offenders behave like criminals because they think like criminals; changing thinking is the first step towards changing behavior.” 3
Risk and Public Safety
Risk relates to the actual and perceived threats that offenders released from jail pose to the safety and property of potential victims in the community.4 Imagine such risks as being on a continuum: At one end are offenders who are too dangerous to be safely managed in the community and at the other end are offenders who pose no real risk to public safety.
When determining where a person falls on the continuum (risk assessment), you need to consider a number of factors (criminogenic needs) that research has shown are associated with recidivism. These criminogenic needs are dynamic, in that they can change over time.5 Ensuring that the returning inmate has accessed and will continue to access partnership services that address criminogenic needs is critical for managing and reducing any potential risks he or she may pose to the community.
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1 Bonta, James and D. A. Andrews. 2007. Risk-Need-Responsivity Model for Offender Assessment and Rehabilitation. Ottawa: Public Safety Canada, June. Available at: http://www.publicsafety.gc.ca/res/cor/rep/risk_need_200706-eng.aspx.
2 Latessa, Edward J., Cullen, Francis T., and Gendreau, Paul. 2002. “Beyond Correctional Quackery: Professionalism and the Possibility of Effective Treatment.” Federal Probation 66(2): 43-49.
3 Chapman, Tim, and Hough, M. 1998. Evidence-based Practice: A Guide to Effective Practice. London: Home Office Publications Unit.
4 Ohio Department of Rebilitation and Correction, Intensive Program Prisons web page. http://www.drc.state.oh.us/web/ipp_criminogenic.htm.