Optimizing Risk and Needs Assessment Tools for Enhanced Sentencing and Therapeutic Justice Programs in the Americas.

Implementing Organization
Executive Secretariat of the Inter-American Drug Abuse Control Commission [ES-CICAD]

A key barrier to implementing ATIs is the lack of reliable information about individuals' specific backgrounds and their needs to allow officials to detect underlying factors, including but not limited to substance use disorders driving the alleged criminal behavior. To address this, ES-CICAD is developing and piloting a risk-needs assessment tool using the Risk-Needs-Responsivity (RNR) theory. The RNR theory states that effective interventions should assess and target specific criminogenic risk factors, address the dynamic needs of individuals, and tailor interventions to the cognitive and learning styles of the participants. By incorporating these principles, the RNR model aims to enhance efficiency and foster better-informed interventions, thus reducing recidivism and promoting rehabilitation among offenders. 

Accomplishments to Date
  • ES-CICAD developed and is currently piloting a risk-needs assessment tool in one member state. The content of the tool has been used as a guideline in other justice initiatives by the said member state. 
  • ES-CICAD has trained over 40 officials (public defenders and judges) in risk-needs assessment.  
  • Alongside an external partner, ES-CICAD is currently developing a guideline for the creation of a risk-needs assessment tool to be piloted in Colombia as a model to be further used for other similar programs in Latin America.  
Project Activities
  1. Preliminary assessment: (i) Identifying key stakeholders and ensuring political support; (ii) selecting one or multiple possible jurisdictions for piloting or nationwide piloting; and (iii) designating possible implementing officials.  
  2. Formalize host country support via agreement: making a sustainable impact is critical. 
  3. Risk-needs assessment tool drafting and approval: (i) create/adapt a risk assessment tool according to the host country's characteristics and legal model and (ii) obtain approval of the tool. 
  4. Initial training: Sensitizing and training officials on data collection, needs assessment, and ATI basics. 
Global Level Outcomes
  • Creation of a standardized risks-needs assessment tool that can be adapted for similar programs nationally and inspire other countries in Latin America. 
  • Increase global dialogue on the importance of addressing needs among the population in contact with the justice system – including substance use and abuse. 
  • Improvement of national risks-needs assessment tools by the sharing of experiences. 
National Level Outcomes
  • Increase the number of eligible defendants that access ATI programs after being screened with risk-needs assessment tools developed or adopted by the country. 
  • Increase the number of pilot projects for the implementation of risk-needs assessment tools. 
  • Strengthened institutional capacity and sustained use of risk-needs assessment tools officials trained as implementers and trainers in the use of risk-needs assessment tools. 
  • Increased knowledge about ATI and the benefits of linking services to the population in contact with the justice system.  

Interested Countries Are Encouraged To Apply


Antonio Lomba, Chief, Institutional Strengthening Unit, ES-CICAD/OAS (ALomba [at] oas [dot] org (ALomba[at]oas[dot]org))

Current State Participants