The Public Safety Risk Assessment Clearinghouse – A One-stop Online Resource for Practitioners, Researchers, and Policymakers
By the Public Safety Risk Assessment Clearinghouse Team, The Urban Institute
Criminal justice agencies use risk assessments to assist with the allocation of limited resources to manage and rehabilitate people at various stages of the criminal justice system: from judges using risk assessment to inform decisions about pretrial detention or release, to probation officers using it to calibrate the intensity of supervision and guide assignment to rehabilitative programming. The increasingly widespread and diverse use of risk assessment has given rise to a varied and dispersed body of commentary, research, and best practice guidance. Despite considerable support for the use of risk assessment, for many seeking information about assessment, these resources are often inaccessible or impractical to use.
To help researchers, practitioners, and policymakers access pertinent information about assessment, the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) and the Urban Institute’s Justice Policy Center partnered to develop the Public Safety Risk Assessment Clearinghouse (PSRAC) – a central hub for resources to support state, local, and tribal agencies and communities looking to use risk assessments effectively and properly to build safe communities.
What is the Public Safety Risk Assessment Clearinghouse?
PSRAC is a one-stop online resource that provides comprehensive and accessible information about risk and needs assessments for safer communities. Content is regularly updated and expanded to address emerging needs in the criminal justice field. PSRAC also provides training and technical assistance (TTA) to state, local, and tribal criminal justice agencies on issues related to the development, validation, adoption, implementation, and use of risk and needs assessments.
Who is this resource for?
PSRAC provides information and guidance for several audiences:
- Practitioners can find resources about best practices in risk assessment that they can apply in their day-to-day work. PSRAC provides practitioner-focused materials that explain the technical aspects of risk assessment, which is valuable for those seeking to develop a deeper understanding of the nuts and bolts of these tools. In addition, PSRAC offers a tool for practitioners to identify nearby risk assessment experts who are open to researcher-practitioner partnerships.
- Researchers can access databases that organize existing research on risk and needs assessment, and then use this information to understand the past and current state of the field, identify gaps in the literature, and inform future research efforts. Researchers can also use PSRAC as a vehicle to disseminate their work to audiences seeking sound research on risk assessment.
- Policymakers can refer to research findings regarding the use of risk assessment – as well as information about policies and practices in place across the nation and emerging issues related to assessment – when making policy recommendations and decisions for their own jurisdictions.
What risk assessment topics does PSRAC cover?
The website is organized by key topic areas in risk assessment:
- Basics of risk assessment: This section includes foundational materials that define risk and risk assessment, as well as a brief overview of the history of risk assessment. Practitioners and policymakers new to risk assessment can begin with this section to gain a basic understanding, while those with more experience can view this section as a refresher.
- Tool selection: This section provides guidance for selecting an appropriate risk assessment tool, offers summaries of the most commonly used tools, and presents findings from a national scan of policy and practice. Agencies seeking to implement or enhance their use of risk assessment can use these resources to assist in planning.
- Validation: This section explains key concepts involved in validating risk assessment instruments, such as validity and reliability. It also explains how periodic testing of risk assessment tools is essential to ensure their fairness and accuracy for specific populations.
- Implementation (structured decisionmaking): This section describes how risk assessment can be used to inform decisions in different justice settings. Users can learn how to translate risk assessment information into better decisions.
What other types of resources are available on the website?
Beyond the foundational materials mentioned above, users can find other resources that serve a range of informational purposes:
- Policy and research briefs cover specific risk assessment concepts, current issues in risk assessment, or recent research from the field. Topics include inter-rater reliability, gender responsivity, and risk communication.
- Distance learning content includes self-study tutorials on key concepts in risk assessment. These educational materials are useful for practitioners seeking to learn about the mechanics of risk assessment through visual and multimedia approaches.
How can I access PSRAC training and technical assistance?
PSRAC offers TTA to state, local, and tribal criminal justice agencies across the United States. Users can submit a TTA request with information regarding their specific needs through the online platform on the PSRAC website. In addition to seeking TTA directly through PSRAC’s interface, users can also identify local subject matter experts on the website’s interactive resource map.
Visit the Public Safety Risk Assessment Clearinghouse at https://psrac.bja.ojp.gov/ to access objective and reliable resources on risk assessment designed to inform the important work of criminal justice practitioners, policymakers, and researchers like you.
BJA and the Urban Institute will host an informational webinar on this resource on Thursday, November 1 from 2:00 – 3:00 p.m. ET. Register for this webinar to learn more about PSRAC tools and resources and receive answers to any questions you may have.
If your jurisdiction is in need of training or technical assistance related to risk and needs assessments, or if you know of a community that would benefit from this type of assistance, please contact the BJA National Training and Technical Assistance Center (NTTAC) at BJANTTAC@ojp.usdoj.gov.
If you are interested in submitting the work of your organization or jurisdiction for consideration in a future TTA Today blog post or in obtaining information related to a particular topic area, please email us at BJANTTAC@ojp.usdoj.gov.
Points of view or opinions on BJA NTTAC’s TTA Today blog are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice, BJA, or BJA NTTAC.