Washington State

Institute for Criminal Justice

Funded Projects

Evidence-Based Practices Provision

Following a WSIPP meta-analysis of evidence-based practices in criminal justice, the Washington State Legislature created a provision to investigate the use of evidence-based programming for offender populations in the state and the recommended placement and commitment to stated programming. Working in collaboration with WADOC, WSU has sought to identify, describe, and investigate the available evidence surrounding all programing used for offender populations by the WADOC. With the intended goal of recommending programs to utilize and expand, WSU seeks to create a repository of evidence surrounding offender programing that can guide the DOC's use of interventions going forward.

Research in Brief | pdf

Washington State Department of Corrections Evidence-Based Practices Prison Pilot Project

This study is focused on determining the effectiveness of two prisoner pilot rehabilitation programs currently in operation by the Department of Corrections (DOC) in two Eastern Washington facilities. 130 inmates in each facility receive specialized treatment modalities, including Core Correctional Programming and Thinking for a Change. This study entails a process evaluation and outcome evaluation. The process evaluation includes observation of treatment sessions (to ensure proper implementation), and focus groups with inmates and staff. The outcome evaluation compares program participants to a matched comparison group, to measure differences in grievances, and minor/major infractions. The project measures outcomes for two separate cohorts of inmates, spanning a two year period.

Research in Brief | pdf


In the last ten years, the Washington State Department of Corrections (WADOC) has marked a series of advancements, from a standard “off-the-shelf” instrument (LSI-R), to a static-only instrument with improved predictive validity (SRA), and finally the addition of a needs assessment tailored to the Washington State offender population (STRONG). The current project is an expansive endeavor to combine collected static risk and dynamic items into a consolidated system of prediction instruments – prison infraction, recidivism and violations. To improve gender sensitivity, models are created separately for males and females. Partnering with software application specialists (Assessments.com), this project will span the development and implementation/training of the revised version of WADOC’s Static Risk and Offender Needs Guide assessment system (STRONG-R).

Report of Effectiveness | pdf


Predicting sexual offending has become an increasingly important need for agencies in charge of release and supervision of reentering offenders. General offender recidivism prediction instruments (e.g. LSI-R) have not held the predictive validity desired. Specialized sex offender instruments (e.g. Static-99, RASOR, and SONAR) have noted limitations, such as: lack of analytic weighting, overreliance on static risk factors, or are too subjective to deliver reliable and valid results. Furthermore, many sex offender specific instruments have substantial item overlap with general offender recidivism prediction instruments, which duplicates labor demands of assessment teams and results in unnecessary slowing of data systems. The current project encompasses the development and implementation/training of a sex offender specific instrument (STRONG-R-SO) to be incorporated as part of Washington State’s general offender prediction system (STRONG-R).

Research in Brief | pdf

Gender Specific Risk Assessment

In the past decade, research has identified a need to assess males and females differently. Specifically the risks and needs of female offenders have been shown to have substantial variations when compared to "gender neutral" assessments created previously. Sponsored in part by a grant from the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) and partnering with the WADOC, WSU is currently creating and validating the STRONG-R risks/needs assessment with the goal of increasing the gender specificity of selected risks and needs items and weights.

Offender Typology

Currently, risk assessments are conducted to determine placement in a small set of categories (e.g. low, moderate, and high) formulated on a dimensional (continuous) scale. However, this type of categorization ignores key interactions among predictor variables. Latent Class Analysis is a more recently utilized method that attempts to take a seemingly heterogeneous sample of subjects and separate them into homogeneous subsamples based on similar characteristics. The current study attempts to create a typology of Washington State offenders reentering from incarceration. The study seeks to identify common “types” of offenders being released to the community, examine the interpretive and predictive value of a typological assessment and potential interactions of offender types with interventions and services.

Spatial Dynamics of Offender Risk

Risk assessment literature often notes the transitions of assessment tools through four generations; moving from clinical judgment, to static-only, to the inclusion of dynamic risk, and final provisional indications of general responsivity. Although little advancement has been observed in the methodologies or item selection of said tools, one area has been, for the most part, ignored among offender risk models. With regards to recidivism, where an offender returns represents an important component to consider. Recent advancements in spatial analysis methodologies have now made it possible to incorporate neighborhood-level factors that contribute to an offender’s success on community corrections supervision. The current project attempts to identify the relative impact of return location as an element of the currently accepted domains of offender risk assessment.

Snohomish County Adult and Family Drug Treatment Court Evaluation Project

This research includes a process, outcome and cost-benefit study of the Snohomish County Adult Drug Court (ADC) and Snohomish County Family Drug Treatment Court. The outcome evaluation is focused on assessing whether drug court participants remain crime free, complete treatment at greater rates than individuals who participate in the traditional system, and the impact of drug court participation on use of other social and health services (and the implications of these changes). The cost-benefit study compares the overall operational costs of the drug court program, assesses the cost of the traditional court and treatment process, and evaluates which agencies contribute to the drug court and traditional court process and at what cost. Findings are to be provided to Snohomish County officials via a draft evaluation report, a final evaluation report and a presentation of the final report to Snohomish County, including the County Council, Superior Court Judges and the Chemical Dependency/Mental Health Program Advisory Board by December, 2013.

Spokane County Behavioral Health Therapeutic Drug Court Evaluation Project

WSU researchers are conducting a comprehensive evaluation of the Spokane County Behavioral Health Therapeutic Drug Court to determine the effectiveness of enhancing the drug court program by training staff in trauma informed principles, addition of a risk/needs assessment tool and offering the evidence-based Thinking for a Change program. The goal of this research and program enhancement is to increase public safety by decreasing criminality and substance abuse in Spokane County among felony offenders with substance abuse and/or mental illness. WSU researchers are conducting both a process and outcome evaluation, and the core focus of the outcome evaluation is determining if drug court participants remain crime free, complete treatment at greater rates than individuals who participate in the traditional system, and the impact of drug court participation on use of other social and health services (and implications of these changes).

Assessment of the Civilly Committed

This project focuses on the development and creation of a risk assessment to predict a variety of outcomes (i.e. hospitalizations, recidivism and commits) following the release from civil commitments. Sponsored by the Washington State Legislature and working in cooperation with the Washington State Institute for Public Policy (WSIPP), the project seeks to examine the relative risk and associated needs that impact those released from state custody following a civil commitment. With the goal of creating a risk assessment tool, WSU seeks to provide an instrument that will assist assessment providers and policy makers with needed information at the time of release from custody.

WSU-Initiated Projects

Community Supervision Dosage

Despite increasing community corrections populations, the recent economic downturn has forced states to reduce correctional budgets. With financial and security demands looming, correctional agencies are forced to be more efficient with limited resources. The underlying intent of the study is to identify a point of diminishing returns when community supervision can be reduced and ultimately terminated, while preserving (or reducing) the current levels of recidivism among community corrections participants. Cost-benefit analyses will supplement study findings identifying cost savings associated with reductions in supervision dosage and duration.  Following the completion of project analyses the WSU-WADOC partnership will be extended, collaborating to develop new, evidenced-based supervision policies.

Expedited Case Resolution

Faced with a backlog of cases, significant court delay, and an overcrowded jail, in 2008 the Spokane County Superior Court instituted a differentiated case management system titled the Expedited Case Resolution program (ECR). Under the ECR, seemingly non-complex Class B and C felonies were identified for expedited processing cases with the aim of adjudicating them in 1/3 of the time seen for traditionally handled cases. Since its inception, the court has not achieved its desired outcomes. As the program has yet to be evaluated, reasons behind the program’s failure are unknown. The current project will entail a comprehensive evaluation of the ECR program as well as related positive and negative impacts it has had on the criminal justice system and community.

Prison Transfers and Violence

The prison transfers project introduces a new theory of inmate misconduct following the transfer of inmates between correctional institutions. Existing theory suggests that the immediate institutional environment and community environment from which inmates are imported influence infractions in the prison setting. This research proposed a third influence on infractions, namely the prison environment from which inmates are transferred out of having a lasting influence on misbehavior. Evidence supports the new theory, suggesting that inmates transferred from larger institutions with higher infraction rates, and to facilities with a different custody rating, commit more infractions following a transfer.

Assessment of Drug Court Participants

Prior findings have demonstrated that a non-structured use of clinical assessments can lead to idiosyncratic decision making, creating bias in the selection process. Risk and need assessment tools were created within the field of psychometrics to identify who is likely to fail or succeed. However, risk and needs assessment instruments do not make treatment recommendations as they are created for a general population and without knowledge of treatment availability for a given local. The current study uses the psychometric principles to create risk and need assessment instruments but directs these efforts toward specific responsivity. In particular, a three stage project development has begun, starting with the examination of predictors of (1) graduation and (2) failure, with the ultimate goal of combining findings of these initial studies to (3) create a risk assessment model specific to drug court treatment success. Our goal is that the instrument will improve selection of successful participants from the pool of eligible subjects, ultimately improving the effectiveness of drug courts.

Sex Offender Typology

This study examines the impact of victim-offender relationships on recidivism among child-victim sexually-based offenders. Building on the work of previous scholars, this study explores the development of specified victim-offender typology utilizing both the sex of the victim and the perpetrator. These typologies are then examined for differential recidivism outcomes. Advancing upon prior typologies, the study utilizes and differentiates between, both male and female offenders in an effort to provide a more complete profile. Furthermore, by operationalizing recidivism as newly committed sexually-based offenses, this study intends to more accurately predict predatory threats within the community. Policy implications for this study are aimed at improving the accuracy of risk assessments for sexually-based offenders who target children. 

Parenting Sentencing Alternative

The Washington State Legislature passed the Parenting Sentencing Alternative (PSA) in 2010. PSA provides nonviolent offenders with minor children two alternatives to total confinement. The Community Parenting Alternative is for currently incarcerated offenders, while Family Offender Sentencing Alternative is offered in lieu of incarceration by a judge. Both are designed to reduce intergenerational incarceration by decreasing the trauma children experience when their parent is incarcerated, as well as ease the parent’s reentry process to restore the family unit and reduce recidivism. This research will provide the Department of Corrections and other interested stakeholders with process and outcome evaluations to ensure the PSA is evidence-based, is meeting its desired objectives, and is reducing recidivism among participants.

Predicting Technical Violations

The intended purpose and hope of the “technical violation” is that such a violation would act as an indicator of the person’s potential of committing a new crime. Parole revocations are grounded in the notion that technical violations are actually proxies of new criminal offenses – a notion that has yet to be sufficiently challenged. Using risk assessment predictors of new crime, we test the sensitivity and specificity of risk assessment variables using a receiver operating characteristic (ROC) in relation to the prediction of technical violations. By encompassing data from three Northwestern states, we offer a necessary investigation into the assumptions that drive risk assessment, treatment placement, and supervision plans.

Comparing Risk Assessment Methodologies

Offender risk assessment instrument methodology has progressed over the last 4 decades. The advancement of prediction, beginning with clinical knowledge/decision-making, was followed by static assessments, then advancing to the inclusion of dynamic and generally responsive instruments. Recent evolutions in actuarial research have revealed the potential of increased utility of machine learning and data mining strategies to develop statistical models such as classification/decision tree analysis and Neural Networks. These are said to mimic the decision-making of practitioners. The current project examines the improvement gained in predictive accuracy through perceived methodological improvements. Utilizing a large purposive sample of Washington State offenders (N=297,600), this study examines the predictive validity of the currently used Washington State Static Risk Assessment (SRA) instrument comparing its predictive validity to Classification Tree Analysis/Random Forest and Neural Network models.

Correctional Industries Evaluation

The purpose of this study is to examine the relationship between inmate participation in Correctional Industries (CI) and subsequent criminogenic behavior both during and following incarceration. Specifically, this study is concerned with how CI participation promotes pro-social offender change, which is measured by reductions in institutional infractions and recidivism, and increases in reentry success (i.e. sustained employment, adherence to supervision conditions). Contemporary research has highlighted the criminogenic benefits of education and vocation programing in prisons. However, few studies have isolated the effects of CI participation. Through the use of a quasi-experimental research design, including a propensity score matched comparison group, this study will highlight the unique contribution of CI participation to offender rehabilitation as well as institutional and community safety.























Washington State Institute for Criminal Justice | PO Box 1495, Spokane, WA 99210-1495 | 509-358-7961 | Contact Us