Ensuring Safety Starts at Intake

COMPAS Classification   •   An equivant product

Violent or non-violent? Under the influence of a controlled substance? First arrest or tenth? Gang affiliation? Mental illness? Risk to others?

When an accused offender arrives in your booking room, unknown factors abound. It’s your job to get a handle on the situation as quickly as possible, to book and house individuals appropriately, and to ensure the safety of everyone in your jail.

It’s like doing triage in the emergency room. Who is at the greatest level of risk? Who needs what kind of services or treatment? The person having a heart attack needs very different care than the person with a broken wrist, and each one needs to be quickly classified and sent to the right place.

Likewise, in your jail, the person who’s suicidal, the person who’s coming down from a high, the person who is violently resisting the arresting officer, the person who’s still too drunk to answer questions, and the person who was picked up on a first-time misdemeanor also have vastly different risks and needs.

That’s why it’s critical to begin the process of inmate classification immediately. From the very first encounter, you and your team should be gathering information that will help you make the right housing and separation decisions.

At a very basic level, during that first encounter you need to assess:

  • Risk of victimization
  • Risk to the safety of others, including staff and other inmates
  • Risk of self-harm or suicide
  • Risk of escape attempt

That’s more than anyone, even the most seasoned professional, is capable of assessing quickly and accurately for every person who comes through the door. That’s why criminal justice researchers have developed inmate assessment tools with accuracy rates that far surpass human judgment, like the COMPAS Classification instrument.

A common misconception about inmate classification is that it’s primarily for longer-term decision support, like where to house an inmate. But as any experienced jail professional knows, a lot can happen in the time between when a person walks in the door and when they’re assigned a bed.

That’s why the key to successful intake is not only to use an objective classification tool, but to start using it right away. Dangerous situations can happen within minutes of a person entering your facility, and to keep everyone safe and protect your jail from litigation, inmate classification can’t take a backseat to the mechanics of booking and processing. They have to go hand-in-hand.

Incorporating a classification decision support tool in your intake process is the best way to ensure that appropriate classification happens every time, from the beginning.

If your intake process needs a reboot, give us a call. We can help you seamlessly integrate inmate classification into your intake process using the Northpointe Suite. Lower your jail’s risk by better assessing inmate risks from the start.