Risk, Need, and Responsivity

Programs that target offender risks, needs, and responsivity (RNR) have repeatedly been shown to reduce recidivism among high-risk offenders. Risks, as articulated by Andrews and Bonta, are “characteristics of people and their circumstances that are associated with an increased chance of criminal activity.” They identify criminogenic needs as those risk factors that are “dynamic,” meaning they are risk factors that can be changed through interventions. In general, responsivity is an approach that considers the “ability and learning style of the offender” in an effort to empower him or her in the rehabilitation process.

Andrews and Bonta developed the RNR model based on evaluations of the factors statistically related to increased criminal conduct. They determined that there are four key attributes common to the majority of offenders: antisocial attitudes, antisocial peers, antisocial personality, and having a criminal history. They also propose that familial or marital circumstances, educational or vocational attainment or involvement, gratification in leisure or recreational activities, and substance abuse problems are scientifically relevant to criminal conduct. They argue that programs that do not target these risk and criminogenic needs fail to change behavior and impact recidivism. Several large studies showed that interventions that are implemented based on the RNR model are effective in reducing recidivism up to 30%, while those that fail to include the principles of RNR resulted in no effect or may even have an iatrogenic effect by increasing recidivism.

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