What is Risk-Need-Responsivity?

The Risk-Need-Responsivity (RNR) model is an effective intervention framework for justice-involved populations. The model’s three core principles  – risk, need and responsivity  – are used to create interventions for justice populations to improve treatment outcomes and reduce recidivism in correctional and community settings. What does each principle do?

  • Risk
    Align the level of service to the individual's risk of recidivism.
  • Need
    Evaluate criminogenic needs and target them in treatment.
  • Responsivity
    Maximize the individual's ability to change behaviors and mindsets by providing treatment founded on EBPs while customizing support to the individual’s learning modality, motivations, abilities, gender, culture, strengths, etc.

Unfortunately, research indicates that the model is more often used to manage risk rather than guide individual assessment and treatment. This can occur due to a gap in training for using RNR and/or inadequate resources to translate RNR into the “real world” (e.g., lacking the capacity to develop individualized treatment planning that accounts for the responsivity variables). However, the RNR model is only one component under the umbrella of evidence-based practices for effective intervention.

Interactive Journaling® curricula such as Courage to Change tightly align to RNR and other principles of effective intervention. With training, Interactive Journaling® can be effectively implemented to address the responsivity principle, as well as enhance the individual’s intrinsic motivation and give guidance on structure for facilitators to provide measurement, feedback and support to clients.

What can correctional agencies and community-based organizations using the RNR model do to improve? Studies show there are three keys to success with RNR implementation:

  1. Lean into the vision that it is in the best interest of all to provide CBT treatment
  2. Select, train and monitor staff with RNR assessments and related services
  3. Create and enforce policies and organizational support for the RNR model

Effective use of RNR can foster desistance. The study of desistance (why and how people stop committing crimes) is growing in sophistication through measurement and study. By desisting, an individual chooses among alternatives, thereby creating a more law-abiding identity than one prone to law violation. Definitions are still evolving, but the value is clear. The challenge for research and policy to promote desistance is two-fold: a) to support such choices and underlying psychological processes and b) to improve structural conditions (such as labor and housing markets).