Module 6: Section 3: Selecting Screens and Assessment Tools

This section provides assistance and guidance in selecting appropriate screening tools and assessment instruments that satisfy both the informational requirements of the TJC model and local concerns (e.g., inexpensive, easy to administer, yield information useful to a variety of partners). This section offers different types of instruments to assess specific inmates' risk and needs.

Questions to think about before choosing screens and assessments include the following:

  • Is the screen or assessment valid and reliable?
  • Is the screen or assessment copyrighted?
  • Is there any cost to use the screen or assessment?
  • How much staff time is needed to complete the screen or assessment?
  • What is the cost of administering the screen or assessment, including staff time and training?
  • How much training is involved to administer the screen or assessment?
  • Is medical, mental health, or substance abuse training necessary to administer the screen or assessment?
  • Is the screen or assessment available in other languages?
  • Is the screen or assessment available in electronic format?

Screens and Short Assessments Used During the Booking Process

Defining Risk Categories

Each jurisdiction must determine what criminogenic risk and need scores or “cut-points” will be utilized to assign medium- and high-risk individuals to available program tracks, sanctions, treatment, or some combination of system actions. Cut-points, or the threshold of risk/need identified by screening and/or assessment that is required to assign offenders to intensive interventions, must be jurisdiction specific, for they must consider a number of local factors such as the actual number of people in a given risk/needs category; existing service capacity (institutional and community based); and available resources, including staff, space, and bed capacity. In this world of shrinking resources, it is essential that jurisdictions establish cut-points to ensure that precious resources are spent on offender groups that are most likely to benefit.

The TJC model recommends that each person booked at your jail receive a short risk-to-reoffend screen and a pretrial risk assessment. The risk-to-reoffend screen will help identify those who need a full risk and needs assessment and are targeted to receive intensive services pre- and post-release as well as those of lower risk who are candidates for release, diversion, or alternatives to incarceration.  The pretrial risk assessment will help identify the risk levels for failing to appear in court and rearrest. In some jurisdictions, the court may delegate to booking officers the authority to release those defendants who score as low risk on the risk assessment.  The risk-to-reoffend screen will help identify those who need a full risk and needs assessment.

Though it may seem okay to cut corners and use the score from a risk-to-reoffend screen or assessment to determine who should receive pretrial release, a number of factors relevant in predicting criminogenic risk and needs do not predict pretrial risk. The use of separate instruments is advised.

Risk-to-Reoffend Screens

The following table highlights three risk-to-reoffend screens for this purpose. Our intent is not to endorse any individual screen, but instead to draw your attention to screens commonly used in correctional settings that are well regarded by experts in the field.

The Proxy Risk Triage Screener is the shortest of the three, with only three items. The eight-item Level of Service Inventory—Revised Screening Version categorizes a person into a low-, medium-, or high-risk group. The Wisconsin Risk Assessment, an 11-item instrument, asks more comprehensively about criminal history, drug/alcohol interference, living arrangements, and general attitude regarding change.

Quick Risk Screening

Tool Name


Time to Complete Interview

Inventory Items

Instrument Result

Additional Information

Proxy Risk Triage Screener

No cost

Five minutes or less

Three items – Current age, age at first arrest, # of priors

Risk of recidivism on an 8-point scale

Level of Service Inventory—Revised Screening Version (LSI-RSV)



15 minutes

Eight items – Criminal history,
family/marital, companions,
alcohol/drug problems,

Risk of recidivism score on an 8-point scale and brief summary of dynamic risk areas that may need attention

Wisconsin Risk

No cost

15–30 minutes

11 items – Criminal history (adult and juvenile), drug/alcohol involvement, living arrangements, general attitude for change

Risk of recidivism score

Available in PDF

It is also possible to develop a risk screener using the administrative data on the jail population available in a jurisdiction. This can be done by examining factors related to recidivism that are captured in the jail MIS and analyzing which correlate most significantly with recidivism. For an example of this process for developing a screening tool, see the Vera Institute’s work on creating the Service Priority Indicator for the New York City Department of Corrections. Developing a jurisdiction-specific screening tool is a much more analytically complicated undertaking than implementing one of the commonly used tools, but may provide better prediction of recidivism.

Pretrial Risk Assessments

The following table highlights three pretrial risk assessment instruments. Our intent is not to endorse any individual instrument, but instead to draw to your attention pretrial screens commonly used that are well regarded by experts in the field.

The Ohio Pretrial Assessment Tool is the shortest of the three, with seven items, the point totals are grouped into three levels of risk – low, moderate, and high. The eight-item Virginia Pretrial Risk Assessment Instrument categorizes a person into five levels of risk – lowest to highest. The Kentucky Risk Assessment Instrument is the longest of the three (12-items) and like Ohio’s tool, groups the point totals into low-, moderate-, or high-risk group.

Quick Pretrial Assessments

Tool Name


Time to Complete Interview

Inventory Items

Instrument Result

Additional Information

University of Cincinnati Corrections Institute Ohio Risk Assessment System.


No cost

10 minutes or less

Seven items – Age of first arrest, criminal history, employment, residential stability, history of drug use, severity of drug use.

Risk score on a 9-point scale.

Virginia Pretrial Risk Assessment Instrument (VPRAI)


No cost

15 minutes or less

Eight items – charge type, pending charges, criminal history, failure to appear history, violent conviction history, length at current address, employed/primary care giver, history of drug abuse

Risk score on a 9-point scale


Kentucky Risk Assessment Instrument

No cost

15 minutes or less

12  items – length of current address, employment, charge type,  pending charges, failure to appear history, conviction history, violent conviction history, history of drug abuse, escape history, under probation/parole supervision

Risk score on a 24-point scale

In 2014, the Laura and John Arnold Foundation will be releasing a pretrial risk assessment tool that is based on a study of hundreds of thousands of cases from numerous jurisdictions.  The intent of the instrument is that it can be universal; that is, it can be used in any jurisdiction in the country.  Another feature of the instrument is that is comprised entirely of criminal history factors – information that would be readily available to a booking officer.  In addition, several states, including Ohio, Virginia, Kentucky, Colorado, and Florida, have validated their pretrial risk instruments within their state. These developments mean that there will be a validated pretrial risk assessment tool available for use in every jurisdiction in the country.

Assessments for Persons Who Score Medium to High on a Risk/Needs Screen

Comprehensive criminogenic risk/need assessment instruments are targeted to those who scored medium to high on the quick screen, indicating that they may need more intensive intervention. Multipurpose risk/needs assessments are advantageous because they not only evaluate the risk of recidivism, but identify categories of needs in areas identified as being most likely to impact recidivism, including education, employment, financial, family, housing, leisure, substance abuse, criminal thinking, and other personal needs. By discerning these criminogenic needs areas, the assessment tools identify targets for intervention.

Research consistently identifies eight major criminogenic needs, and further distinguishes between the "big four" (those most strongly related to re-offending) and the lesser four. They are:3

Big four criminogenic needs

  1. History of antisocial behavior
  2. Antisocial personality pattern
  3. Antisocial cognition
  4. Antisocial associates

Lesser four criminogenic needs

  1. Family/marital factors
  2. Lack of achievement in education/employment
  3. Lack of pro-social leisure or recreation activities
  4. Substance abuse

3 Andrews, D.A., James Bonta, and J. Stephen Wormith. "The Recent Past and Near Future of Risk and/or Need Assessment."Crime and Delinquency, 52:1, 7-27.

The following table provides information on seven comprehensive risk/needs assessments for inmate treatment, planning, and placement.

Criminogenic Risk/Needs Assessment

Tool Name


Time to Complete Interview

Inventory Items

Instrument Result

Additional Information

Level of Service Inventory–Revised


60 minutes

54-item inventory – interview

Total risk/need score and 10 subdomain scores

Level of Service / Case Management Inventory (LS-CMI)


120–180 minutes

124-item inventory – interview
Risk, needs, responsivity.
Case and release planning

Risk/needs score, responsivity score, generates plan for case management

Correctional Offender Management Profiles for Alternative Sanctions (COMPAS)

Per user fee of approx. $225/user/

90 minutes

98-item inventory – interview
Risk, needs, responsivity
Case and release planning

Risk/needs score and plan for case management

Ohio Risk Assessment System (ORAS)

No cost

45-90 minutes

101-item inventory – pretrial assessment, community supervision screening, community supervision full assessment, prison intake, prison reentry

Total risk/need score and 7 subdomain scores

Wisconsin Risk/Needs

No cost

60 minutes

23 items – interview

Risk/needs score

Available in PDF from  

Applied Correctional Transition Strategy

By jurisdiction Software license or
hosted online

45-minute initial interview
Ongoing during jail transition planning and treatment

Risk triage + 17 item interview for full risk/needs,
Additional modules for change readiness
general responsivity, gender responsivity,   
ongoing jail transition planning and aftercare

Risk triage rating
Risk score
Needs rating
Change readiness
Targeted transition modules
Transition plan, progress notes, and aftercare.

Client Management Classification (CMC)

No cost

60–75 minutes

71 items – interview
Risk, needs, responsivity
Case and release planning

Risk/needs score and suggested plan for case management

Correctional Assessment Intervention System (CAIS)

By jurisdiction Software license or
hosted online

60 – 75 minutes

82 items

Risk/needs score, generates plan for case management correctional-assessment-and-intervention -system-cais


Here we briefly discuss some other screens and assessments used in the jails and the community throughout the country.

Field notes from Jacksonville, Florida

The Jacksonville (Florida) Sheriff's Office uses the three question Proxy risk screener to quickly and objectively sort all inmates booked into its Pretrial Detention Facility by risk to reoffend. The Proxy scores individuals as low, medium or high risk to reoffend based on a scale ranging from 2 to 8. Jacksonville selected the Proxy risk screener because it takes less than 5 minutes to administer and scores can be generated automatically; local recidivism analyses have also found the Proxy to be highly predictive. Jacksonville targets sentenced inmates screened as a medium to high risk on the Proxy for in-depth criminogenic risk/needs assessment.

Specialized Screens and Assessments

Specialized screens and assessments, in conjunction with comprehensive general risk and needs assessments, can be used to contribute to targeted treatment and transitional planning. Selective use of one or more of these tools is recommended when an individual scores high on all or a section of a comprehensive risk/needs assessment. The tables below list commonly used behavioral health, substance abuse, and sex offender screens and assessments.

Behavioral Health Screens and Assessments

Specialized Screens and Assessments for Populations with Behavioral Health Issues

Tool Name


Time to Complete Interview

Inventory Items

Instrument Result

Additional Information

The Brief Jail Mental Health Screen

No cost

Less than three minutes

Eight items – interview, behavioral health

Quick screen for the presence of a mental health disorder

Mental Health Screening Form-III

No cost

—Three to five minutes

17 items – interview, behavioral health

Quick screen for the presence of a mental health disorder

Global Appraisal of Individual Needs – Short Screener (GAIN-SS)

By jurisdiction Software license or
hosted online

Three to five Minutes

20 items – interview,
behavioral health

Quick screen and identification of clients with one or more behavioral health concerns


Global Appraisal of Individual Needs – (GAIN)

By jurisdiction Software license or
hosted online

90–120 minutes

123 items – interview,
behavioral health

Identification of clients with one or more behavioral health concerns

Hare Psychopathy Checklist–Revised:
2nd Edition
(PCLR 2nd ed.)

Excluding start-up cost


120–180 minutes

20-item inventory + structured interview to assess psychopathy

Assessment of psychopathy

Here we briefly discuss some other screens and assessments used in the jails and the community throughout the country.

Medical Screens

1. The Texas Uniform Health Status Update is a medical screen that is easy to use and comes with user-friendly instructions. Some benefits of this screen are its one-page length and instructions to guide the screener on its use.

2. The New York City Correctional Health Services screen is a four-page screening instrument that uses prompting questions during the medical history section. The screen includes a section on the last page that reminds the staff to give each inmate three brochures on HIV, sexually transmitted disease, health, and dental needs.

Activities of Daily Living Screen

Dr. Brie Williams, a geriatrician and correctional health care expert, recommends that inmates who miss two or more of the following activities of daily living (ADL) answers be transferred directly to a nursing home or assisted living facility if family cannot care for them. Inmates who miss one ADL and/or have fallen in the past year should be assessed more carefully for possible assisted living or nursing home–level care.

Activities of Daily Living: Is the inmate able to do each of the following?

  • Bathing: sponge, shower, and/or tub
  • Dressing/undressing: able to pick out clothes, dress and undress self (tying shoes is not included)
  • Toileting: able to get on/off toilet, clean self afterward
  • Transferring: able to get in/out of bed and chair without assistance or mechanical aids
  • Eating: able to completely feed self
  • Mobility: able to walk without help except from cane, walker, or crutch and does not need lifting from bed

Suicide Risk Screens

1. The Texas Commission on Jail Standards' Mental Disability/Suicide Intake Screen is one page and determines if a further mental health evaluation is needed. Any positive response to the six suicide-related questions requires further evaluation of the person.

2. The Suicide Prevention Screening Guidelines, a 16-item screen developed by the New York Commission of Correction, has detailed instructions on how to administer it and is well-regarded by experts.

Alcohol or Drug Withdrawal Screens

1. The Clinical Institute Withdrawal Assessment for Alcohol (CIWA-AR) is a recommended alcohol withdrawal screen that can also be used for the psychoactive drug benzodiazepine. This screen requires five minutes to administer and may be reproduced freely.

2. Clinical Opiate Withdrawal Scale (COWS) is an opiate-withdrawal screen.

Substance Abuse Screens

1. U.S. Department of Health and Human ServicesSimple Screening Instrument for Substance Abuse (pages 7 - 15).

Treatment Screens

1. CJ Comprehensive Intake (TCU CJ CI) is usually administered by a counselor in a face-to-face interview held one to three weeks after admission, when the offender has had time to detox and reach greater stabilization and cognitive focus (90 minutes).

2. CJ Client Evaluation of Self and Treatment, Intake Version (TCU CJ CEST-Intake) is a self-rating form completed by the offender at the time of admission to treatment. It includes short scales for psychological adjustment, social functioning, and motivation. These scales also provide a baseline for monitoring offender performance and psychosocial changes during treatment (15 minutes).

3. CJ Client Evaluation of Self and Treatment (TCU CJ CEST) records offender ratings of the counselor, therapeutic groups, and the program in general. It also contains scales assessing psychological adjustment, social functioning, and motivation (35 minutes).

4. TCU Criminal Thinking Scales (TCU CTS) is a supplement to the Criminal Justice - Client Evaluation of Self at Intake(CJ-CESI) and CJ-CEST and is designed to measure “criminal thinking.” The six criminal thinking scales are Entitlement, Justification, Power Orientation, Cold Heartedness, Criminal Rationalization, and Personal Irresponsibility, which represent concepts with special significance in treatment settings for correctional populations (five to ten minutes).

Homelessness Screens

1. New York City Department of Health Homelessness Checklist is a nine-item screen to determine the rate of homelessness of the jail population. The homeless are often frequent users of the jail and shelter system. Identifying this population can help your jail at incarceration transition to direct these individuals to supportive services and shelter or supportive housing at release instead of sending them back to the street, knowing that they will shortly return to jail.

Employment Assessments

An important issue to address among your jail population is its vocational and employment needs. Many maintain that there is a very strong connection between employment and crime: when individuals are working, they are less likely to be committing crimes. Thus, it is important that we do what we can to foster the employability of inmates when they leave our jails.

Many government and nonprofit agencies have developed tools to assess the employment readiness of people with criminal records. We include two employment assessment tools.

1. PS Plus Employment Assessment Form was developed in the United Kingdom for a prison and community-based project. It surveys for vocational interests, skills, and history; education levels and qualifications; and other barriers to employment, such as driver's license suspension.

2. Maryland Correctional Education Program Employment Survey was originally developed by the New Mexico Corrections Department and modified and adapted by the Maryland Correctional Education Program. This assessment tool poses a series of 49 questions intended to identify potential challenges the job seeker may face. This tool groups issues by the following six categories: education/training, personal/health, offender, attitude, support, and job search.

For more information and examples from the field

1. Mellow, Jeff,  Debbie Mukamal, Stefan LoBuglio, Amy Solomon, and Jenny Osborne. 2008. The Jail Administrator’s Toolkit for Reentry, Washington, DC: Bureau of Justice Assistance.

2. Orange County, CA. Pretrial risk assessment instrument and report analyzing risk scores by offender characteristics.

Prerelease Risk Information

1. Vetter, Stephanie J. and John Clark. 2013. The Delivery of Pretrial Justice in Rural Areas.

Proxy Information

  1. Bogue, Brad, William Woodward and Lore Joplin. 2005. Using a Proxy Score to Pre-screen Offenders for Risk to Reoffend.
  2. Davidson County, TN Sheriff’s Office. 2010. A comparison of inmates completing Proxy questions and inmates released without Proxy scores.
  3. Davidson County, TN Sheriff’s Office. 2010. Proxy Data Report. Proxy report with data obtained during the initial classification assessment.
  4. Denver Sheriff Department. Risk/Need Screening and Assessment Pilot Overview. Proxy pilot and Level of Service Inventory report including tables and graphs.
  5. Douglas County, KS Sheriff’s Office. 2009. Douglas County Proxy Fact Sheet. Proxy fact sheet including a discussion on Proxy score ranges are determined.
  6. Orange County, CA Sheriff’s Department. 2009. Proxy Pilot 2009 Results. Proxy pilot report including tables and graphs.
  7. Orange County, CA. Pilot proxy data spreadsheet.

Let's Review

Let's revisit what we have learned so far in the Screening and Assessment module. Please answer the following questions:

1. The TJC model recommends that each person booked at your jail should receive a quick recidivism risk screen.



2. Specialized assessments…

Ensure the booking process runs smoothly.

Contribute to targeted treatment and transitional planning.

Ensure that all team members support the mission statement.

Decrease the safety of staff members.


This section has drawn your attention to a number of screening, comprehensive risk/needs, and specialist assessments appropriate for use with correctional populations. You also understand that assessments can be revisited during the course of the individual's incarceration, so that changes in risks and needs can be tracked and updated.