Criminogenic Needs: Definition & Risk Factors

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  • 0:00 Overview of Criminogenic Needs
  • 1:30 Risk Factors
  • 2:26 Risk-Need Responsivity Model
  • 3:07 RNR Model: Risk…
  • 4:09 RNR Model:…
  • 5:08 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Melanie Norwood

Melanie has taught several criminal justice courses, holds an MS in Sociology concentrating in Criminal Justice & is completing her Ph.D. in Criminology, Law & Justice.

In this lesson, we will discuss criminogenic needs with regard to criminal offenders and risk factors with respect to criminogenic needs. We'll explore how these needs and risks relate to the risk-need-responsivity model.

Overview of Criminogenic Needs

Whenever criminologists are trying to determine causes of crime, part of that analysis examines the criminogenic needs of an offender. They often ask the question, 'If the offender had this (something the offender clearly needs and is lacking), would he have still committed this crime?' Criminogenic needs are characteristics, traits, problems, or issues of an individual that directly relate to the individual's likelihood to re-offend and commit another crime. These break down into two categories: static and dynamic. Static factors cannot be changed or addressed by any sort of program or therapy in the prevention of future crimes. Examples of static factors include age at the time of first arrest, criminal history, residing in a single-parent home, and so forth. Generally, these are structural elements of a person's life that personally led them to commit crime.

In contrast, dynamic factors could be lack of respect for authority, anti-social behavior, lack of literacy or job skills, or other expressed nonconformist behaviors, values, and attitudes that are correlated with criminal activity. These factors can be addressed by therapy, training, education, and/or targeted programming and subsequently altered to result in more law-abiding behavior. Criminogenic needs are assessed in both juvenile and adult offenders by correctional programming that occurs in jails, detention centers, correctional institutions, prisons, and community correctional settings such as halfway houses.

Risk Factors

Now that we have a clearer idea of what criminogenic needs are, we can explore how these relate to risk factors. Risk factors tie into the dynamic factors we mentioned earlier. For instance, if an individual lacks literacy and is unable to complete a standard job application as a result, then he cannot obtain legitimate means of employment. This may lead him to resort to criminal activity to make money. His illiteracy is considered a risk factor and that specific skill, literacy, is the criminogenic need that must be fulfilled in order to reduce the risk of him returning to crime. Alternatively, if an individual has an anger management issue, the risk factor and providing the therapy to help the individual learn to control that anger is the criminogenic need. The need is what must be provided by some sort of correctional programming in order to reduce the risk of recidivism. The risk factor is generally determined as part of the initial assessment process as an offender is entering a correctional facility.

Risk-Need-Responsivity Model

The risk-need-responsivity (RNR) model is a theoretical framework developed in the late 1980s and formally introduced in 1990 that underlies offender programming in prisons and in community correctional settings. The RNR model is a type of evidence-based practice in corrections and reentry, or proven knowledge and tools that can improve correctional outcomes based on research evidence and clinical expertise. Based on the individual's needs, with the RNR model, prisons and community corrections settings could include things like classes, seminars, training, or therapy. Each element of the RNR model operates according to a set of principles, which state how offender programming should be set up.

RNR Model: Risk Principle

The risk principle states that the level of intervention provided by the correctional programming should match the level of risk the offender is deemed to have toward recidivism. So, an offender with a long criminal history or an especially violent criminal history would be considered a high risk offender. Accordingly, this individual, per the risk principle, would need to be in programming tailored to offenders of the violent or high-risk sort. Generally, a program tailored to high-risk offenders would entail programming that is more rigorous, and contact between the offender and the therapists, counselors, and/or instructors would be more frequent and for longer periods of time.

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