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In December 2017, the Washington State Department of Corrections (DOC) implemented a new dynamic risk and needs assessment—the Washington Offender Needs Evaluation (Washington ONE). The Washington ONE is a dynamic risk and needs assessment used to inform case management for individuals under DOC jurisdiction.
The DOC contracted with WSIPP to review the literature on correctional risk assessments, including hierarchical classification systems. In addition, DOC asked WSIPP to examine the impact of reassessments on risk level classification changes since the instrument was introduced in 2017.
Our review of the literature found that the Washington ONE is generally consistent with national standards on the types of factors considered in the assessment. However, the hierarchical methods used to determine classifications are unique to Washington State. To date, information on the comparative accuracy of the Washington ONE is unavailable, but the report provides an overview of the national standards for reviewing accuracy and fairness in risk assessment instruments.
In general, most reassessments under the Washington ONE did not lead to a change in risk level classification (RLC). When reassessments did lead to a change, there were increases and decreases in RLC. Changes in RLC were driven by changes in many different domains. The report provides details about changes in RLC following reassessments by gender and by race.
Upon conviction for a crime in a trial court in the U.S., an individual may incur monetary sanctions as part of their sentence. These monetary sanctions, which can include fines, fees, restitution, and any surcharges associated with their case are commonly known as legal financial obligations (LFOs). The 2021 Washington State Legislature directed the Washington State Institute for Public Policy (WSIPP) to study LFOs.
In this preliminary report, WSIPP studied statutes that allow for the imposition of LFOs in Washington and how other states fund their court systems. The review of statutes found over 350 unique LFOs that can be imposed across Washington courts. Of those LFOs, four are mandatory for convictions in a superior court and three are mandatory for convictions in courts of limited jurisdiction. Our 50-state review of court funding and LFOs found that every state allows for the imposition of LFOs, but it is unclear how LFOs are connected to court funding in many states. The review also indicates that states operate and fund their court systems differently. Some rely more on state-level funding while others rely more heavily on local resources. Using 2019 U.S. Census Bureau data, we found that local funding accounts for a higher percentage of Washington’s judicial spending than in 41 other states. This report also provides a brief description of WSIPP’s intended research plan for the final report, due to the Legislature by December 1, 2022.
The COVID-19 pandemic led to abrupt changes in the operations of the adult criminal justice system. In this report, we describe how the flow of individuals through the adult criminal justice system has changed since the start of the pandemic by system component and by type of offense. We provide a high-level summary of the Washington State adult criminal justice system and discuss the decrease in measures of criminal justice processing at key stages of the system after the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. We then discuss some additional changes to the criminal justice system since the end of calendar year 2020 and considerations for whether the system will return to processing the same number of individuals as it did before the pandemic.
Washington’s Department of Corrections (DOC) and State Board of Community and Technical Colleges (SBCTC) collaborate to provide educational programming to incarcerated individuals and formerly incarcerated individuals re-entering the community. Available educational programming includes adult basic education, workforce and vocational training, and Associate of Arts degrees, among other options.
In 2020, the Washington Student Achievement Council (WSAC), in partnership with DOC and SBCTC, received a grant from the Lumina Foundation to improve postsecondary credential outcomes for incarcerated and re-entering populations in Washington. As a part of this grant, the Washington State Institute for Public Policy (WSIPP) was contracted by WSAC to examine the landscape of postsecondary correctional education programs in Washington.
This study presents an overview of the postsecondary correctional education system in Washington, with an examination of the patterns of enrollment in and completion of postsecondary programs for incarcerated individuals. We found that Black, Latino, and other people of color participated in correctional education programs at a greater rate than White individuals while incarcerated. Rates of retention and completion once enrolled were similar across all racial groups, although Black and Latino students were slightly less likely to complete their degree programs. These findings were consistent for both professional/technical degrees and academic transfer degrees.
This report also includes a review of national research literature identifying challenges that may inhibit participation in postsecondary programs and best practices that may promote access. We found that Washington already implements many useful practices, chiefly the coordination between the Department of Corrections, community colleges, and other stakeholders and reentry services for formerly incarcerated students. Though barriers to participation still exist, often around funding, eligibility, and course quality, we found that these challenges would not generally limit participation for incarcerated students of color uniquely. However, some policies, particularly those related to student eligibility factors, may indirectly contribute to inequities.
The Washington State Criminal Sentencing Task Force (CSTF) was directed to review the state’s sentencing laws. To better understand the landscape of sentencing in Washington and the potential impacts of reforming the state’s sentencing laws, the CSTF contracted with WSIPP to examine felony sentencing in Washington State Superior Courts. This report is intended to provide analytic data to assist with future policy discussions within the CSTF.
Using data from the Caseload Forecast Council, this report reviews the outcomes from FY 2019 felony sentences. Specifically, the report examines how standard, non-drug sentences vary across the current offense seriousness level-based sentencing guideline grid. The report also examines how sentences may vary across an alternative, felony class-based guideline grid.
This report includes an examination of racial disproportionality in sentencing outcomes for standard sentences in the current and alternative guideline grids and for non-standard sentences including enhancements, exceptional sentences, and sentencing alternatives.
In general, the report found that average sentence lengths and incarceration rates may decrease under a class-based grid. However, racial disproportionality in sentencing outcomes was present under both grid systems. The magnitude of racial disproportionality varied for different types of offenses and for different types of sentences.
WSIPP’s Board of Directors approved a Washington State Department of Corrections (DOC) contract with WSIPP to examine the new DOC risk and needs assessment—the Washington ONE. In 2017, DOC transitioned to the Washington ONE for adults incarcerated in state facilities or under DOC supervision in the community. During the current phase of implementation, contact requirements for community supervision are based on an individual’s initial assessment and are not updated during regularly scheduled reassessments. We examined how the new assessment impacted risk level classification and corresponding contact requirements for community contacts and how these requirements would change if they were updated following reassessments. We found minimal differences between the contact requirements under the previous risk assessment system, the current Washington ONE assessment system, and a more dynamic Washington ONE assessment system. Our analysis found that contact requirements for some individuals would change if contact levels were updated following reassessments. However, we found that a similar number of individuals showed a reduction in risk level and contacts over time as the number of individuals showed an increase in risk level and contacts over time, resulting in little change in DOC’s workload associated with community contacts during the study period.
Previous reports published by the Washington State Institute for Public Policy have shown a gradual decline in recidivism for adults released from prison through the 1990s and early 2000s. This report updates WSIPP’s 2011 review of recidivism trends for adults released from prison and expands the scope of our report to include youth populations and additional adult populations. Our analyses found gradual declines in overall recidivism for all four populations from FY 1995–FY 2014. However, examination of recidivism trends by type of recidivism, type of initial offense, and demographic characteristics indicate that changes in trends varied across sub-populations.
The 2013 Washington State Legislature passed a bill to facilitate the use of evidence-based programs in adult corrections. The legislature directed WSIPP to define the terms “evidence-based” and “research-based” and create an inventory of adult corrections programs classified as evidence-based or research-based. WSIPP produced the first inventory of evidence-based and research-based programs for adult corrections in 2013. This is an update to the original inventory, classifying an additional 30 programs, for a total of 57 programs.
The 2016 Washington State Legislature created the Statewide Reentry Council with the goals of reducing recidivism and improving other outcomes for people who return to the community after incarceration. This legislation also directed WSIPP to examine the effectiveness of reentry programs through a systematic review of the research literature. Using WSIPP’s standardized procedures, we examined 59 programs to estimate their average effectiveness in reducing recidivism and improving other outcomes. In this report, we describe our meta-analytic and benefit-cost findings for these programs.
The 2013 Washington State Legislature directed WSIPP to develop a risk assessment for patients in the state’s involuntary mental health treatment system. In Washington State, formal risk assessments have been used to predict the risk of criminal recidivism among juvenile and adult offenders. This report finds that the existing Static Risk Assessment (SRA), used by courts and corrections in Washington for criminal populations, can also serve as a valid tool for determining the level of risk for adults with involuntary civil commitments and forensic competency evaluations. Results indicate that the adapted SRA described in this report has reasonable predictive accuracy for both the civil and forensic populations.