Office of Juvenile Justice Adopts Cutting-Edge Method of Assessing Youth
Baton Rouge, La - Youth placed in the custody of the Office of Juvenile Justice after being adjudicated delinquent will soon benefit from an assessment tool designed to identify individual youths’ treatment needs and predict their risk for violence and re-offending. Entitled SAVRY (Structured Assessment of Violence Risk in Youth), this assessment tool is considered by national experts to be one of the best predictors of this type of risk.
Governor Bobby Jindal and OJJ Interim Deputy Secretary Mary L. Livers, MSW, Ph.D., made the joint announcement, saying that SAVRY is a well-researched, evidence-based assessment tool that will assist OJJ, the courts and district attorneys to appropriately assess both risk and need. Use of the tool will allow OJJ to more accurately project needs for secure, moderate and non-secure resources on a statewide basis.
“I am delighted that OJJ has taken this vital step as the agency moves forward with systemic reform of juvenile justice in Louisiana,” said Gov. Jindal. “This is yet another step toward implementation of evidence and community-based services that will be more beneficial to the youth in state custody and their families. More widespread use of community-based programming will allow us to realize significant cost-savings while providing more effective services.”
SAVRY was adopted by OJJ after careful study, and in partnership with the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, a national leader in juvenile justice research and best practices.
“Use of a standardized risk/needs assessment tool leads to unbiased decision-making,” Dr. Livers said. “Research clearly shows that putting low-risk youth into high-risk settings can make them worse. Without an assessment tool in place, all youth are assigned to the same programs, which can reduce their chances of success.”
The SAVRY is evidence-based and uses an approach that examines risk factors associated with violence, applies the factors to the youth being assessed, and classifies severity of the factors. Many items in the SAVRY permit re-assessment that allows identification of changes in risk in response to services provided to the youth.
OJJ is developing an implementation plan to customize the SAVRY for its use. The SAVRY will be piloted in several of OJJ’s 11 regional offices beginning in two to three months, with targeted statewide implementation within 12 months.
MacArthur Foundation experts call the SAVRY one of the top two assessment tools of its kind and are interested in testing the effectiveness of system-wide use. By implementing use of the SAVRY, Louisiana will become a model for other states to emulate, according to the MacArthur Foundation.
Previously known as the Office of Youth Development, OJJ was renamed August 15 under provisions of Act 565 of the 2008 Legislature.