Critical evaluation of the validity of the risk/need assessment with aboriginal young offenders in Northwestern Ontario
Master of Arts
SubjectIndian youth Psychological testing Ontario, Northwestern
Indian children Psychological testing Ontario, Northwestern
Juvenile delinquents Psychological testing Ontario, Northwestern
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A probation risk and need assessment instrument. Ministry's Risk/Need Assessment Form, was implemented in the province of Ontario and has been recognized by the Ministry of Community and Social Services as part of their mandate for appropriate correctional treatment for Phase I young offenders. The assessment of risk is required because the criminal Justice system has a responsibility to the community to ensure safety and the assessment of need is pertinent to increase the benefits of rehabilitation. This relatively new instrument has not been validated in regions other than where it was developed, southern Ontario, and no published studies are yet available. It was felt that evaluating the instrument's validity in northwestern Ontario was important because the region is over-represented by aboriginal young offenders and previous studies have shown risk instruments to be invalid in different jurisdictions. Thus, the validity of the instrument was assessed with 263 northwestern Ontario young offenders. Moreover, 62 non-delinquent youths were assessed with the risk instrument by the researcher. Three hundred and twelve youths were followed-up at six months to determine if they had offended subsequent to their initial assessment. It was found that the total risk/need score and all of the risk/need factors could discriminate between delinquents and non-delinquents and more importantly, between recidivists and non-recidivists. It was also shown that although Native delinquents had more negative peer influence, greater substance abuse and less involvement in recreational activities than non- Native delinquents, race was inconsequential with regards to the prediction of recidivism. For both male and female delinquent youths, the findings supported the instrument's utility to assess risk, thereby predicting recidivism. The conclusion that can be drawn from this research is that the Risk/Need Assessment Form is robust to ethnicity, sex and criminal status. Research and practical implications of these findings are discussed.