The Importance of Regular Assessments

  • To measure the success of the psychological interventions, it is important to conduct a baseline psychological assessment at the beginning of the treatment, and then again at regular intervals throughout. Often, the assessment over time will inform the baseline assessment as more information comes to light. Regular assessments can also help inform decisions for managing the detainee in prison and guide prison officials on determinations of whether the detainee is ready to be released. It can also help prison officials assess what the post-release plan should be, both in terms of ongoing monitoring and conditions, and psychological care. Whenever feasible, assessment of inmates exposed to a rehabilitation program should be compared to similar assessments of a control group which has not been part of these types of programs.
  • Prisons should use a variety of tools to measure the risk presented by the inmate, including specialized tools designed to measure risk for terrorist inmates. The general risk tools for violence can provide misleading assessments for terrorists, often understating the potential for violence, since these inmates may not possess the same types of psychopathologies that general, violent criminal offenders may have. Prisons should attempt to use a mix of tools, including those that rely on observational insights and reports and those that survey the inmate themselves to ensure that they have adequately identified the criminogenic risks and needs.
  • It is important to use standardized assessment batteries that allow comparisons between rehabilitation programs in different countries; these should be supplemented by assessment tools tailored to the specific conditions and cultural context.
  • Establishment of trust with the detainees is also critical in setting up the assessment process. It is important to convey to the detainees that assessment research does not put them at risk, and in fact is designed to understand their needs and respond to them to the greatest extent possible. Countries may also want to communicate that the assessors are not attempting to exploit the detainees’ cooperation for their own ends, and that the detainees will be given feedback about the results of the assessment if they are interested.
  • Ideally, the person performing the assessments should not be the same person who is implementing the interventions.