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Court requires universal use of offender assessment tool to break cycle of repeat crimes

Wednesday, April 2, 2014   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Beth Warrington
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Chris Mechler, Court Services Officer SpecialistThe Kansas Supreme Court decided late last week that it will require court services officers statewide to use the Level of Service Inventory-Revised (LSI-R) assessment tool to evaluate the type and level of supervision each misdemeanor and felony offender needs to reduce future criminal activity.


The requirement applies to all felony offenders who enter supervision on or after July 1, 2014, and all misdemeanor offenders who enter supervision on or after January 1, 2015, or 60 days after an electronic version of the tool becomes available late this year, whichever is later.


Kansas Judicial Branch court services officers supervise about 38,000 adult offenders statewide per year. Roughly two-thirds are supervised for misdemeanor crimes, while the remaining third are for felony offenses.


"When we show people who are convicted of crimes how to live in our communities without breaking our laws, we all benefit with increased public safety,” said Chief Justice Lawton Nuss.


The LSI-R is an internationally recognized assessment tool based on more than 30 years of research. It focuses on factors criminal justice professionals have identified as indicators for repeat criminal behavior, like criminal history, education, current employment, financial well-being, connections to family and friends, and alcohol and drug use. How an offender scores in each area reveals to the court services officer where the offender’s risk to reoffend resides and where more in depth evaluation may be warranted.

"These are standardized, evidence-based assessments that give us a statistically valid way to say what factors could lead a person to reoffend,” said Chris Mechler, Court Services Officer Specialist. "It allows us to target our efforts where we can have the greatest impact and prevent repeat criminal behavior.”

When the Kansas Judicial Branch starts using an electronic version of the LSI-R assessment tool late this year, it will greatly expand its ability to collect uniform data statewide. Currently, all assessments are recorded on paper.


Most court services officers have used the tool to some extent in the past, but the court’s requirement makes its use universal.


In 2011, with input and guidance from the Court Services Officer Advisory Board, 213 court services officers from the state’s 31 judicial districts were trained to administer the LSI-R assessment. Continuing education is required annually.


Training is provided by the University of Cincinnati, a recognized expert in LSI-R assessment, and is paid for using probation supervision fees paid by offenders. Probation fees are also being used to develop the electronic assessment tool that will launch late this year.