Predictive Properties of a General Risk-Need Measure in Diverse Justice Involved Youth: A Prospective Field Validity Study

AuthorJessica Prince,Keira C. Stockdale,Mark E. Olver,Kristine Lovatt
Published date01 November 2021
Date01 November 2021
Subject MatterArticles
CRIMINAL JUSTICE AND BEHAVIOR, 2021, Vol. 48, No. 11, November 2021, 1511 –1535.
Article reuse guidelines:
© 2021 International Association for Correctional and Forensic Psychology
A Prospective Field Validity Study
University of Saskatchewan
Saskatchewan Health Authority
Saskatoon Police Service and University of Saskatchewan
University of Saskatchewan
The current investigation was a prospective field validity study examining the discrimination and calibration properties of a
general risk-need tool (Level of Service Inventory–Saskatchewan Youth Edition [LSI-Sk]) in a diverse sample of 284 court
adjudicated youths, rated by their youth workers on the measure and followed up an average of 9.3 years. The overall risk
level and need total demonstrated moderate predictive accuracy for general, violent, and nonviolent recidivism in the aggre-
gate sample, although area under the curve (AUC) magnitudes fluctuated among gender and Indigenous ethnocultural sub-
groups. Variability in AUC values for the measure’s eight criminogenic need domains further reflected greater salience of
certain needs among subgroups. Finally, clinician rated level of gang involvement incrementally predicted recidivism to
varying degrees after controlling for overall risk and need. Implications for responsible use of risk assessment tools as part
of individualized and gender/ethnoculturally responsive risk assessment practices with youth are discussed.
Keywords: Level of Service Inventory; risk assessment; youth; gender; Indigenous; gang
Risk and need assessment with justice involved youth serves important functions, such
as evaluating recidivism risk to inform the intensity, priority, and foci of services to
help prevent future justice system contacts. In Canada, the youth crime rate has declined
over the last decade, with some noteworthy exceptions. In some provincial and territorial
jurisdictions, such as Saskatchewan, youth crime has remained relatively consistent at more
AUTHORS’ NOTE: This manuscript is based on the undergraduate thesis of Jessica Prince supervised by Mark
Olver. Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Mark E. Olver, Department of Psychology
and Health Studies, University of Saskatchewan, 9 Campus Drive, Arts 154, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada
S7N 5A2; e-mail:
1004669CJBXXX10.1177/00938548211004669Criminal Justice and BehaviorPrince et al. / LSI-SK AND DIVERSITY IN YOUTH
than double the Canadian average (Department of Justice Canada, 2016). Provinces such as
Saskatchewan also have a particularly large overrepresentation of Indigenous youth
involved in the justice system, a problem that is further compounded by the proportion of
youth involved in street gangs (Tanasichuk et al., 2010). Across jurisdictions, however,
there has been debate about the use of structured risk-need assessment measures with
diverse justice involved youth (e.g., Indigenous peoples, females), and there has been even
less formal structured evaluation of risk and need among gang involved youth. As such, this
study endeavors to examine issues of sociocultural diversity (i.e., Indigenous ancestry, gen-
der, and gang involvement) in the predictive properties of a general risk-need assessment
tool on a sample of court adjudicated youth.
Although Indigenous persons, which include First Nations, Métis, and Inuit peoples,
comprise less than 10% of the general Canadian population, they are overrepresented by
approximately eightfold to tenfold in youth and adult corrections (Malakieh, 2018).
Indigenous persons also tend to score higher on conventional risk measures, they are
more frequently classified as high-risk, and they have higher rates of recidivism and
returns to custody (Rugge, 2006). Arguments have been advanced that the item content of
risk instruments capture variables that tend to be overrepresented among Indigenous per-
sons owing to their social, historical, and contextual circumstances (e.g., racism, abuse,
poverty), contributing to higher scores and poorer reintegration prognoses (Clark, 2019).
The applicability of risk instruments for females has also been questioned. Ongoing
discussions and debates have frequently included two poles referred to as gender neutral
versus gender specific with extant research arguably demonstrating a gender responsive
middle ground (Olver & Stockdale, 2021). Thus, the use of conventional risk assessment
tools with female youth and those of diverse ethnocultural backgrounds has been the
focus of much discussion. Although such debates have captured both assessment and
intervention approaches, this brief review focuses on risk assessment given the focus of
the present study.
The Level of Service (LS) measures refer to a collection of general risk-need tools devel-
oped for justice involved youth and adults, male and female. More than a dozen variants of
the LS measures exist, a common thread being that the item content can be grouped around
a collection of risk and need domains that Andrews and Bonta (2010) have termed the
Central Eight: Offense History, Employment/Education, Family/Marital, Antisocial Peers,
Drug/Alcohol Problems, Leisure/Recreation, Antisocial Attitudes, and Antisocial Pattern.
The family of LS measures are the most frequently used risk instruments, with more than
one million administrations annually worldwide (Luong & Wormith, 2011). These mea-
sures are designed to apply the risk-need-responsivity principles (Andrews & Bonta, 2010)
by identifying the individual’s level of risk and profile of criminogenic needs to inform
intervention, case management, and community supervision (Olver et al., 2014).
The first youth variant emerged in the form of the Youth Level of Service Inventory
(YLSI; Andrews et al., 1984), and several others would follow including the Young Offender-
Levels of Service Inventory (Shields & Simourd, 1991), and the most widely used, Youth
Level Service/Case Management Inventory (YLS/CMI; Hoge & Andrews, 2003) along with
its Screening Version (YLS/CMI-SV; Hoge & Andrews, 2001). Jurisdiction-specific variants

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