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Offender Assessment

With offenders in custody and being supervised in the community, assessments play a key role in determining which offender to target, what should be targeted and how interventions should be delivered. During the past fifteen years, reviews of offender rehabilitation literature have found that providing services and programs to offenders following the Risk, Need and Responsivity are associated with reduction in re-offending. The Risk principle states that for services and programs to be effective in reducing re-offending, the level of services should be matched by the offender's risk of general re-offending. This is because statistically, High risk offenders are more likely to re-offend than Low risk offenders and research shows that providing intensive treatment to Low risk offenders can increase re-offending. This principle provides an over arching framework for CSNSW to focus resources on offenders that are at the highest risk of re-offending.

Many offenders, especially High Risk offenders, have a variety of needs. They need places to live and work and/or they need to stop taking drugs. Some have poor self-esteem, chronic headaches or lack creative abilities and these are all 'needs'. The Need principle draws our attention to the distinction between criminogenic needs and non-criminogenic ones. Criminogenic needs are dynamic attributes of an offender that, when changed, are associated with the possibility of reducing re-offending (e.g. Alcohol and Other Drug use). Non-criminogenic needs are also dynamic and changeable, but these changes are not necessarily associated with the probability of reducing re-offending. As a result, CSNSW programs are designed to target areas that are statistically linked to the likelihood of re-offending.

The Responsivity principle states that for services and programs to be effective in reducing re-offending, it should be delivered in a manner that is appropriate to the offender. If an offender is not motivated to change and/or lacks the ability to do so, the rehabilitative effects of interventions are reduced. For example, if an offender is illiterate and/or have an intellectual disability, it may impact on his/her ability to complete certain tasks set out by a program. Through identifying responsivity factors prior to program intervention, CSNSW staff can work with offenders to overcome potential barriers and maximise the benefits of intervention.

Assessment is the first step in offender rehabilitation and critical in making sure that the right offenders are referred to the right programs. In 2014, CSNSW published the third edition of the Compendium of Assessments which lists all accredited offender assessments used by the organisation. The accreditation process ensures that assessments administered by CSNSW staff are valid, reliable, cost effective and relevant to CSNSW goals. This process also helps to streamline existing work practices and promote service consistency among different disciplines.

If you are interested in learning more about assessments administered in CSNSW, please contact the Manager Assessments and Case Management - 02 9804 5567 or by email - assessments@dcs.nsw.gov.au.

Link to Risk of Re-offending Fact Sheet, Criminogenic Needs Fact Sheet and Responsivity Fact Sheet.