The Disconnect Between Risk Needs Assessment Tools and Probation Officer’s Supervision Decision Making

Danielle Rudes
Associate Professor of Criminology, Law and Society, George Mason University

Key Findings

  • Probation officers are not directly using the results of Risk and Needs Assessment (RNA) tools in case management and supervision decisions despite administering it regularly.
  • There are three different versions of RNA tools but many of the sampled probation officers solely used one version.
  • Probation officers were not interested in the background of RNA tools.
  • Probation officers administer the RNA differently.


The Risk Needs Assessment (RNA) tools are widely used by probation officers but there is a disconnect between administering the tools and using the scores to make decisions. In the study, “Misalignment in Supervision: Implementation of Risk/Needs Instruments in Probation,” Rudes looks into how and why probation officers use RNA tools. Rudes found all the probation officers in the sample used RNA tools routinely but did not follow through and link the scores to their decision-making. Rudes also found that there were lots of differences in the way probation officers administered RNA tools as well as the versions of tools they were using. Based off data from personal interviews, the researchers found that probation officers indirectly discuss risk and needs through holistic interactions (in-depth lengthy conversations lasting 20-45 minutes) and brief interactions (quick conversations lasting 3-10 minutes). RNA tools need probation officers to be comfortable with the tools and interested in the background/purpose of the tools, but the probation officers sampled did not fit the conditions.

View Full Research