Risk screening evaluates arrested minors to see if they need secure lock up. The risk assessment instrument (RAI) used by Casey’s Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative (JDAI) assures objectivity and uniformity for this process. This report reviews current risk-screening technology in the United States through the detention reform lens of JDAI sites. It is a practical guide to develop an objective risk-assessment instrument for those concerned about the quality of care and protection provided to children in the justice system.
In addition to the technical challenges, RAI development may be complicated by political or attitudinal factors, such as the resistance of juvenile justice personnel who would prefer to make decisions with “gut-level” judgments about who should be detained or released.
No Universal Standard
There is no universal standard that defines the moment at which secure detention for juveniles begins or ends, which makes coming up with an assessment that much harder.
Statements & Quotations
A basic tool used in the risk screening process is a detention risk assessment instrument or RAI. The risk instrument is a written checklist of criteria that are applied to rate each minor for specific detention-related risks. The overall risk score is then used to guide the intake officer in making the critical decision whether to detain or release an arrested youth.
In the dozen years since the start of JDAI, local detention risk assessment instruments (RAIs) have been implemented at JDAI sites in more than 15 states. These RAIs are not clones of one another. Each one is tailored to fit state and local laws, policies, and procedures. They have different names and formats. But they are all grounded in the principles of objectivity, uniformity, and risk assessment described [in this report], and they incorporate other common design elements.