Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Public Policy & Administration

First Advisor

Hayley M. Cleary


Utilizing a validated risk assessment tool to predict future offending is recommended as best practices in corrections by a number of professional organizations (Latessa & Lovins, 2010). Guided by the risk-needs-responsivity model, risk assessment tools have evolved to help inform criminal justice practitioners by identifying offenders most in need of intervention or supervision, guiding the case plan to optimize outcomes (Bonta & Andrews, 2007). The Virginia Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) utilizes the Youth Assessment and Screening Instrument (YASI) at all stages of contact with youthful offenders, including intake, probation, commitment, and parole (DJJ, 2016). However, risk assessment instruments do not always generalize across populations (Schwalbe, 2007) and are not always used effectively for case planning decisions (Singh et al., 2014). This study focused on the accuracy, equity, and usage of YASI in the Virginia juvenile justice system. Findings suggested that YASI performed at the expected and adequate levels of predictive validity in comparison to existing research. The predictive validity of the overall and dynamic risk scores and levels was statistically equivalent for males and females, but the Community/Peers and Family domains had stronger predictive validity for males than females. The predictive validity was statistically equivalent for White and Black youth for overall risk levels and dynamic risk scores and levels; however, the predictive validity for the overall risk scores was higher for White youth than Black youth. Each domain had a positive correlation between risk and assignment as a case planning priority area with a wide variation in the strength of correlation. Future research should focus on instrumental validity, protective factors, inter-rater reliability, domain interactions and clusters, reoffense types and timing, additional group and geographical differences, weighting and scoring, service matching, recidivism reduction, and program evaluations. Policy recommendations regarding risk assessment use in juvenile justice systems include a repeated cycle of determining purpose and function, conducting staff and stakeholder training, testing, and calibrating and modifying the tool.


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