The First Step Act – the Pattern Assessment
The First Step Act has proven to be one of the largest and most meaningful criminal justice reform in many years. It has – to date – made a huge and positive difference in the lives of thousands of federal inmates and their families.
There are many pieces of the First Step Act (FSA), and we will be breaking those down into pieces to help you better understand their impact and how you and your loved one might benefit.
THE FIRST STEP ACT
GOALS OF THE BOP’S NEW PATTERN RISK AND NEEDS ASSESSMENT SYSTEM
WHAT MAKES A RISK AND NEEDS ASSESSMENT SYSTEM EFFECTIVE?
- Dynamic individualized assessment – Some factors in an inmate’s life are static, not changeable, such as the inmate’s age, offense, and criminal history. However, an inmate’s behavior and other characteristics change over time during his or her incarceration. Accordingly, dynamic variables should be assessed to ensure that an inmate is progressing with treatment, or is not entering into crisis.
- Periodic re-validation and update – Not only should inmates be reassessed periodically, but also any strong risk and needs assessment system should be reassessed from time to time to ensure that it is still addressing the core principles of why there is a risk and needs assessment system in the first place.
- Racial and Ethnic Neutrality – There can be no question that an effective risk and needs assessment tool must show no bias. That means that race and ethnicity play no part in the process of assessing inmates. Fairness and equality demand nothing less.
- Assessment of Criminogenic Needs – As a threshold matter, “criminogenic needs” are characteristics, traits, or issues of an individual that directly relate to an individual’s likelihood of committing another crime. Accordingly, a system that attempts to determine the level of risk that an inmate poses at any given time must be able to identify and weigh the various criminogenic factors for each inmate.
PATTERN – THE RISK AND NEEDS ASSESSMENT TOOL THAT THE BUREAU OF PRISONS DEVELOPED FOLLOWING THE FIRST STEP ACT
WHAT IS BEING DONE TO IMPLEMENT PATTERN?
- Implement enhanced dyslexia screening
- Engage an outside research partner
- Conduct research and issue an RFI (request for information)
- Hold a needs assessment meeting
- Convene a BOP symposium
- Review the current assessment tool (called BRAVO)
- Develop PATTERN – the new needs tool
- Pilot the new needs tool
- Execute PATTERN
- Train all BOP staff