Demystifying Criminogenic Needs

The Northpointe Suite   •   An equivant product

Client needs are a key factor in every supervision plan, and their utility doesn’t stop there. For those with a direct role in supervising people, understanding individual needs is often the key to effective intervention and improved outcomes.

What do we mean by needs? In the general sense, all human beings have needs ranging from food, sleep, and shelter to Maslow’s idea of self-actualization. Whether or not a person is under supervision, these basic needs still apply.

But in the criminogenic sense, needs are important because they contribute to a person’s risk level and can be an indicator of the severity of the overall problem. Criminogenic needs are defined as “needs seen as causing criminal behavior,”¹ and they fit into eight central categories:

  1. History of antisocial behavior
  2. Antisocial cognition
  3. Antisocial associates
  4. Antisocial personality
  5. Family/marital instability
  6. Employment/education
  7. Substance abuse
  8. Leisure and recreation

There are two types of dynamic factors – acute factors that can change relatively quickly and stable factors that require more time and effort to change.  Employment, education, substance use and homelessness are examples of acute risk factors.  If someone is unemployed, it is conceivable that he or she could interview and get a new job almost immediately. The offender went from being unemployed (risk factor) to employed (no risk factor) very quickly. On the other hand, dynamic factors, such as pro-criminal attitudes, lacking self-control, and having poor problem-solving or coping skills, require more time and effort to change and thus require more dosage of treatment to change.

A few important dynamic factors could be education and substance abuse.  With these dynamic factors, we need to consider the environmental influence, and potential to become a protective factor (things that insulate and protect the domains).

That’s an important point: Some needs are stable, while others are more acute and/or may change relatively quickly. Which ones are which depends on the individual.

As a supervision professional, you can work with a person’s needs in a few key ways:

  • More effective contacts. Knowing a person’s needs and understanding where they’re coming from can help you build rapport and establish a relationship with the client.
  • Targeted programming. Needs are central to determining programming. Knowing not only what the person’s needs are, but also their level of motivation for working on the behaviors associated with those needs, can help you prioritize programs and treatment.
  • Measuring outcomes. Understanding a person’s criminogenic needs can help you work with clients to set goals, measure progress and celebrate milestones.

Criminogenic needs are the “N” in the RNR (Risk-Needs-Responsivity) model of criminal justice, and they can be assessed and managed using the Northpointe Suite and its risk/needs assessment and other tools.

If you’re not currently using a needs assessment tool, it’s time to start enhancing your supervision practice by focusing on criminogenic needs.

Get in touch today for more information on the Risk Needs Assessments available within the Northpointe Suite or to schedule a free online demo.