Risk assessment: The development of an instrument to predict "failure on probation" for juveniles

Michael Xavier Foley, Fordham University


This study reviews juvenile justice and risk prediction literature with a view toward developing a classification instrument for postadjudicatory probation supervision for juveniles. The concept of fairness which has evolved in the field of criminal justice has led to equal rights for all offenders, including juveniles. Since the philosophy of the juvenile court has been moving towards that of the adult courts in terms of due process, as well as focusing more on corrective "punishment" than on individualistic "rehabilitation," the use of classification could prove beneficial to the case management practices for juvenile probationers. The Nassau County Probation Department, Family Division, New York, provided the data for this study. A block random sample of 201 cases (107 failures and 94 successes) discharged from probation in 1981-1982 was selected. This represented approximately 20% of the total population of discharged cases. This block sampling technique was utilized in order to reflect the base rate for failures for the entire population, which approximated 54%. The data analysis consisted of chi square significance testing for all independent variables against the dependent measure, probation outcome. This analysis indicated that 22 of the 55 variables were statistically significant at the.10 level. The results of the multivariate stepwise regression analysis utilizing those 22 variables indicate five variables are significant when controlling for all other factors. These variables include present offense type, number of prior juvenile delinquency contacts, prior adjudication, family legal history, and school behavioral problems. These five variables were used to construct a classification instrument. Three categories or levels of supervision were utilized: high, medium and low risk. The instrument predicted low risk subjects correctly 77.6% of the time and high risk subjects were predicted correctly 87.5% of the time. Recommendations resulting from this study include the need for more in-depth data collection on family background and educational variables as well as the possibility that drug and alcohol abuse may be a more significant factor today than in the early 1980s. The study stresses the need for validation on a contemporary sample and that a risk instrument is only one component in an overall classification management system.

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Recommended Citation

Foley, Michael Xavier, "Risk assessment: The development of an instrument to predict "failure on probation" for juveniles" (1991). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI9127031.