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NYC Criminal Justice Coordinator
Risk Assessment Instrument and Alternative to Detention Programs

In 2006, MOCJ began working with juvenile justice stakeholders to develop a new continuum of Alternative to Detention (ATD) programs for youth with cases pending in Family Court who could be safely released to the community with appropriate supervision. A key component of the initiative was the development of a first-of-its-kind Risk Assessment Instrument (RAI) to help identify youth who would be most appropriate for ATD services.  In partnership with the Vera Institute of Justice, MOCJ developed the RAI based on objective standards that should guide juvenile detention decisions. Based on information collected using the RAI, youth are placed into three categories: high-risk youth, for whom detention may be appropriate; low-risk youth, who are eligible for release to the community with no formal court supervision; and mid-risk juveniles who are suitable for release with supervision through a continuum of ATD programs.

Implementation of the RAI began in June 2007, and as of August 2009, 54% of youth were identified as low risk, 34% as mid risk, and 13% as high risk.  Detention has decreased from 24% to 9% for low-risk youth and from 39% to 32% for mid-risk youth.  The detention rate for high-risk youth has increased from 49% to 70%.  By detaining more high-risk kids, offering better services to and stronger community supervision of mid-risk kids, and making sure that as few low-risk kids as possible are detained, we have cut in half the rate at which juveniles are re-arrested while awaiting the outcomes of their cases, from 26% to 13%.