National Institute of Justice Adopts New ‘Risk & Needs Assessment’ Guidelines Co-Authored by Faye Taxman

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ACE! director Faye Taxman

New guidelines that address the “core function in the criminal justice system” were published this summer by the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Justice Programs and the National Institute of Justice.

The guidelines were created by a team of corrections scholars, including the Schar School of Policy and Government’s Faye Taxman, a University Professor and director of the Center for Advancing Correctional Excellence (ACE!). Kristofer Bret Bucklen of the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections and Grant Duwe of the Minnesota Departments of Corrections, along with Taxman, drafted the “Guidelines for Post-Sentencing Risk Assessment,” a study that examines the “risk and needs assessment” (RNA) instruments used by those in corrections settings for post-sentencing decision-making.

“Risk and needs assessments serve a core function in the criminal justice system,” said Jennifer Scherer, the acting director of the National Institute of Justice in Washington, D.C. “The principles that are the focus of this paper—fairness, efficiency, effectiveness, and communication—reflect a critical need to develop and implement innovative risk assessments to improve the prediction of risk.

“Guided by these principles, the checklist developed by this expert team will assist criminal justice practitioners in producing data-driven risk and needs assessments.”

The new guidelines are important as the results of RNA examinations affect rehabilitation, probation, sentencing, pretrial detention, presentencing decisions, and supportive and therapeutic treatment for those in incarceration scenarios.

“Once someone has been convicted and sentenced for a crime, corrections agencies use risk and need assessment tools to identify how likely that person is to commit another crime or violate the rules of prison, jail, or community supervision,” said a review of the researchers work published separately by the National Institute of Justice. “Correctional authorities use RNA instruments to guide decisions about programming, support, and restrictions that are intended to enhance public safety and make better use of scarce resources.”

For her part, Taxman did her Rutgers University PhD dissertation on RNA, has been consistently studying RNA, and specializes in the design and implementation of RNA, as well as analyzing data to generate evidence or to examine the effectiveness of new systems and methods to reduce recidivism. 

See Taxman’s RNR Simulation Tool at to see how to apply RNA to target individuals to appropriate programs and services.