Risk Assessment

About Risk Assessment

A pretrial risk assessment tool must be carefully developed and validated for the jurisdiction in which it will be used. Stakeholders must be trained on how to appropriately use the tool, and quality assurance measures must be introduced to ensure proper administration and application over time. 

General Resources: The following reports and publications provide more information about the use of pretrial risk assessment instruments as part of an evidence-based pretrial release decision-making process. 

Pretrial Risk Assessment Instruments

Several pretrial risk assessment instruments have been developed for use in jurisdictions across the country. This section provides information about five pretrial risk assessment tools currently employed in more than one state.

For each pretrial risk assessment instrument, several key resources are identified based on what is currently available on the instrument. Each of the identified reports or publications are labeled for easy reference, according to the definitions in the table below.


Label Definition

[Instrument Development]

The resource describes how the pretrial risk assessment instrument was developed.

[Assessment Tool and/or Manual]

The resource includes a copy of the pretrial risk assessment instrument and/or a manual on how to use it.

[Instrument Revalidation]

The resource describes a revalidation study of the pretrial risk assessment instrument.

[Implementation Assessment]

The resource describes an evaluation of pretrial practices that include the use of pretrial risk assessment

Developer: Arnold Ventures

Currently Used In: Arizona, Kentucky, and New Jersey, as well as dozens of local jurisdictions across the country (see map

Key Resources:

[Assessment Tool and/or Manual] Laura and John Arnold Foundation (2016). Public Safety Assessment: Risk factors and formula.

[Instrument Development] Milgram, A., Holsinger, A., VanNostrand, M., & Alsdorf, M. (2015). Pretrial risk assessment: Improving public safety and fairness in pretrial decision-making.

[Instrument Development] Laura and John Arnold Foundation (2014). Results from the first six months of the Public Safety Assessment-Court in Kentucky.

[Instrument Development] Laura and John Arnold Foundation (2013). Developing a national model for pretrial risk assessment [Research summary].

[Instrument Development] Kennedy, S., House, L., & Williams, M. (2013). Using research to improve pretrial justice and public safety: Results from PSA’s risk assessment validation project.

[Instrument Development] VanNostrand, M., & Lowenkamp, C. (2013). Assessing pretrial risk without a defendant interview.

Developer: U.S. Office of Pretrial and Probation Services

Currently Used In: Federal Courts

Key Resources:

[Instrument Revalidation] Cohen, T., Lowenkamp C., Hicks, W. (2018). Revalidating the Federal Pretrial Risk Assessment Instrument (PTRA): A Research Summary.

[Instrument Development] Cadigan, T., & Lowenkamp, C. (2011). Implementing risk assessment in the federal pretrial services system.

[Instrument Development]  Lowenkamp, C., & Whetzel, J. (2009). The development of an actuarial risk assessment instrument for U.S. Pretrial Services.

Developer: Northpointe, Inc.

Currently Used In: New York

Key Resources:

[Assessment Tool and/or Manual]  Northpointe, Inc. (2015). Practitioner’s Guide to COMPAS Core.

[Implementation Assessment]  Crime and Justice Institute (2014). Assessment of Pretrial Services in New York State.

[Instrument Development, Instrument Revalidation] A list of Northpointe, Inc. publications and research reports on the COMPAS system.

Developer: University of Cincinnati

Currently Used In: Ohio and Indiana (as the IRAS)

Key Resources:

[Assessment Tool and/or Manual]   University of Cincinnati (2010). Indiana Risk Assessment System.

[Instrument Development]   Latessa, E., Smith, P., Lemke, R., Makarios, M., & Lowenkamp, C. (2009). Creation and validation of the Ohio Risk Assessment System: Final report.

Developer: Luminosity, Inc.

Currently Used In: Virginia and California

Key Resources:

[Assessment Tool and/or Manual] Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services (2009). VPRAI Instruction Manual Version 1.2.

[Instrument Revalidation] Danner, M., VanNostrand, M., & Spruance, L. (2016). Race and Gender Neutral Pretrial Risk Assessment, Release Recommendations, and Supervision: VPRAI and Praxis Revised.

[Instrument Revalidation] Danner, M., VanNostrand, M., & Spruance, L. (2015). Risk-based pretrial release recommendation and supervision guidelines: Exploring the effect on officer recommendations, judicial decision-making, and pretrial outcome.

[Instrument Development]  VanNostrand, M., & Rose, K. (2009). Pretrial risk assessment in Virginia: The Virginia Pretrial Risk Assessment Instrument.