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The young offender risk identification project

Developing a screening tool for youth offenders in Western Australia

Discussions with the WA Department of Corrective Services (DCS), identified an urgent need to develop a brief, valid and user-friendly tool to assist in targeting services towards youth offenders at the greatest risk of re-offending.

A valid and reliable screening tool would allow for the triaging of young offenders coming into contact with DCS. This triage system would operate in the same way as those in hospital emergency departments by identifying those young people who should undergo more intensive intervention.

There are a number of available instruments designed to identify young offenders at risk of re-offending and to help guide the selection of appropriate interventions aimed at reducing that risk. However, these instruments are generally too lengthy and detailed for standard operational use by busy frontline staff coming into contact with substantial numbers of young offenders and there is a clear need for a more user-friendly tool. 

Project aims

Given this, the major aim of this project was to develop a screening tool for young offenders based on a review of the risk factors involved in youth offending.

Data collection and analysis to identify risk factors in young offenders was completed through detailed examinations and analysis of pre-sentence reports in Perth Magistrate’s Court and through the existing academic literature. A number of risk factors were reduced to 7 key areas and, alongside consultation with the Youth Justice Teams, a screening tool was created.

Outcomes

  • A screening tool has been adopted by the Department of Corrective Services and is currently being trialled in several metropolitan and regional areas by the Youth Justice Officers. It was rolled out for state-wide use in 2010.
  • A longitudinal report examining the tools psychometric properties and ability to predict re-offending is being produced and will be available in 2013.
  • A paper is being presented at the Australian Youth Justice Conference in May 2013.

Researchers

Dr Natalie Gately
Ms Sharan Kraemer

Funding body

Department of Corrective Services and Edith Cowan University.

Timeline

This project is due for completion in September 2014.

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