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Module 6: Screening and Assessment

This visual indicates where Screening and Assessment fits in the Transition from Jail to Community model.

Screening & Assessment

Welcome to Screening and Assessment. This module focuses on screening and assessment, the starting point of any targeted intervention strategy.

The implementation of facility-wide screening and assessment allows us to triage higher-risk inmates into the programs and interventions targeted for their needs, without spending unnecessary resources on low-risk offenders who are not likely to return to jail. The process allows us to target scarce resources for the offenders who have the greatest needs.

—Shannon Murphy
Reentry Director and TJC Site Coordinator
Douglas County Sheriff's Office
Douglas County, Kansas

Before we begin, take some time to think about the screening and assessment your facility presently does.

A basic definition for screening is the use of a brief instrument to detect an individual's potential risk or needs, while assessment is the process of identifying and documenting the specific risk and needs.

Ask yourself the following questions:


Does your intake screening process utilize an empirically based medical screen(s)?


Does your intake screening process identify individuals with mental health issues?


Does your intake screening process identify individuals with substance abuse issues?


Does your intake screening process identify individuals with suicide risk?


Do individuals who score positive on mental health or substance abuse screens receive further empirically based assessments?


Does your intake screening process utilize an empirically based pretrial release screen?



Are detainees with low pretrial release risk scores generally recommended for release?


Does your intake screening process utilize an empirically based risk-to-reoffend screen(s)?  


Do individuals who score medium or higher on the risk and needs screens receive further empirically based assessments?


Are your risk and needs screens distinct from your classification system instrument?


Does your facility use an objective classification system for all incarcerated people?

Did you answer “All the time” to the above questions? If not, this module is meant to help you understand why these different assessment processes are so important to the Transition from Jail to Community (TJC) model.

This module has five sections and will take between 10 and 15 minutes to complete.

Recommended audience for this module:

  • Sheriffs
  • Jail administrators
  • Correction officers involved in transition efforts
  • Jail treatment staff
  • Community corrections staff
  • Reentry coordinators
  • Community providers
  • Probation officers
  • Pretrial services staff
  • County board members
  • Criminal justice council members
  • Judges and Officers of the court

This module also includes a list of links to commonly used screens and assessments.

Module Objectives

In Module 5: Targeted Intervention Strategies, you learned about the 11 tasks outlined in the Targeted Intervention Strategies section of the TJC Implementation Roadmap and the importance of using the risk-need-responsivity model to determine the appropriate strategies to address an individual's criminogenic factors pre- and post-release.

In this module you will have the opportunity to explore the second and third Targeted Intervention Strategies tasks of the TJC Implementation Roadmap, which highlights the importance of screening and assessing pretrial and sentenced individuals during incarceration and upon their return to the community.

Task 2. Apply screening instrument to all jail entrants to identify inmates of varying levels of risk.

Task 3. Apply a comprehensive risk/needs assessment instrument(s) to selected higher risk jail entrants.

This module has five sections:

  1. The Need for Screening
  2. The Need for Assessment
  3. Selecting Screens and Assessment Tools
  4. The Logistics of Screening and Assessment
  5. Terms Used in the Field

By the end of this module, you will be able to

  • Explain the purpose and importance of using screens and assessment tools.
  • Select screening and assessment instruments that will identify the level of risk and needs within your jail population.
  • Create a structure to apply screening and assessment tools in your facility or agency.
  • List the basic requirements of training staff to administer the instruments.

Figure 1: Targeted Intervention Filter

Targeted Intervention Filter

Figure 1 summarizes the relationships among screening, assessment, transition planning, and jail and community interventions and their usual ordering in time. Note that individuals identified as high and medium risk during screening are tracked to assessment, unlike those screened as low risk.  Whether interventions will begin in the jail or in the community will depend on length of stay (LOS)

Download Module 6 in PDF format