Are Risk Assessments Racially Biased?: Field Study of the SAVRY and YLS/CMI in Probation

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Abstract

Risk assessment instruments are widely used by juvenile probation officers (JPOs) to make case management decisions; however, few studies have investigated whether these instruments maintain their predictive validity when completed by JPOs in the field. Moreover, the validity of these instruments for use with minority groups has been called into question. This field study examined the predictive validity of both the Structured Assessment of Violence Risk in Youth (SAVRY; n = 383) and the Youth Level of Service/Case Management Inventory (YLS/CMI; n = 359) for reoffending when completed by JPOs. The study also compared Black and White youth to examine the presence of test bias. The SAVRY and YLS/CMI significantly predicted reoffending at the test level, with most of the variance in reoffending accounted for by dynamic risk scales not static scales. The instruments did not differentially predict reoffending as a function of race but Black youth scored higher than White youth on the YLS/CMI scale related to official juvenile history. The implications for use of risk assessments in the field are discussed.

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