Women's Risk Needs AssessmentWomen's Risk Needs AssessmentUniversity of Cincinnati

Women's Risk Needs Assessment


In 2008, the National Institute of Corrections in cooperation with the University of Cincinnati announced the availability of a series of new risk/need assessments for adult, women offenders. The assessments include: 1) a full instrument, The Women’s Risk/Needs Assessment (WRNA), which assesses both gender-neutral and gender-responsive factors and affords separate forms for probation, prison, and pre-release; and 2) the Women’s Risk/Needs Assessment - Trailer (WRNA-T) which is designed to supplement existing risk/needs assessments such as the Level of Service Inventory - Revised or the Northpointe COMPAS. The WRNA-T is also available in separate forms for probation, prison, and pre-release populations.

The NIC/UC project built from two perspectives on offender rehabilitation: 1) research by Canadian scholars Donald Andrews, James Bonta, Paul Gendreau and others, which stresses the importance of treating dynamic risk factors; and 2) work by feminist criminologists--for example, Kathleen Daly, Meda Chesney-Lind, Barbara Bloom, Barbara Owen, and Stephanie Covington--stressing the importance of women” unique “pathways to crime.” Both paradigms stress the importance of programming for dynamic risk factors. However, the pathways model asserts that women’s unique needs are not adequately tapped by currently used risk/needs assessments. In response, the new women’s assessments identify such needs as: 1) trauma and abuse; 2) unhealthy relationships; 3) parental stress; 4) depression; 5) self-efficacy, and 6) current mental health symptoms.

The instruments were developed following extensive literature searches and focus groups with correctional administrators, treatment practitioners, line staff, and female offenders. The full, Women’s Risk/Needs Assessment and many of the questions now asked on the trailer assessment, were developed by members of a women’s task force in the Missouri Department of Corrections in collaboration with researchers at the University of Cincinnati.

In 2009, UC and NIC entered into another cooperative agreement. Since the earlier assessments were created through construction validation, a key goal of this study was to revaldate the original versions on new samples of offenders to determine the level of shrinkage in predictive validity from the construction to revalidation studies. Additionally, this new study sought to refine several of the dynamic risk/needs scales in order to further improve predictive validity. In doing so this research tested a number of new items that allowed for the exploration of their potential contributions to a revised assessment. In 2014, this research project was completed and new versions of the standalone and trailer assessments were released for use.