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Risk-Need-Responsivity Model

The Risk-Need-Responsivity Model is a foundation of the Washington State Department of Corrections Offender Change Model. Developed in the 1980s and first formalized in 1990, the risk-need-responsivity model has been used with increasing success to assess and rehabilitate offenders worldwide.

As suggested by its name, three principles form the model.

Risk principle

The risk principle states that the level of service should match an offender’s risk of reoffending. An agency should devote more resources to the highest-risk offenders, and those interventions should target an individual’s specific criminal risk factors. Low-risk offenders should receive minimal or no treatment.

Risk levels are determined by examining factors linked to re-offense. Those risk factors can either be static factors that cannot be changed (including age, gender, criminal history and age of first arrest) and dynamic factors that can be changed through successful interventions (including substance abuse, education deficiencies, antisocial personality patterns and pro-criminal attitudes).

Need principle

The need principle states that corrections agencies should assess an offender’s dynamic criminal risk factors, often called criminogenic needs, and focus treatment on those. Major risk factors include:

  • Antisocial personality pattern, indicated by impulsivity, adventure or pleasure-seeking, and restless aggression and irritability
  • Pro-criminal attitudes, indicated by rationalizations for crime and negative attitudes toward the law
    Social supports for crime, indicated by criminal friends and isolation from positive social influencers
  • Substance abuse
  • Negative family and marital relationships
  • Poor school and/or work performance and a low level of satisfaction
  • Lack of involvement in positive social recreational or leisure activities

Responsivity principle

The responsivity principle essentially entails providing the right treatment at the right level. An agency can maximize an offender’s ability to learn from a rehabilitative intervention by providing cognitive behavioral treatment and support and matching intervention to an offender’s learning style, what will motivate an offender to change, abilities and strengths.

Watch a video on the responsivity principle and how it is being applied in both prisons and community corrections.


Read more about the research that supports this model on the Research section, on the Predication, Classification and Assessment page.

Permanent link to this article: http://offenderchange.org/programs/risk-need-responsivity-model/