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Five years ago, the District of Columbia’s Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services (DYRS) began to explore a new methodology for how it determined the appropriate level of restrictiveness of placement for newly committed youth. DYRS developed and implemented a structured decision making (SDM) system, explicitly linking two key factors to placement decisions: the likelihood that a youth will reoffend (risk) and the severity of a youth’s committing offense. In the SDM system, a research‐based instrument classifies each young person as high, medium, or low risk to reoffend. This is cross‐indexed with the committing offense severity level – also assigned as high, medium, or low – to determine the recommended restrictiveness of placement.
Through a grant from the Annie E. Casey Foundation (AECF) and in collaboration with AECF and DYRS, the National Council on Crime and Delinquency (NCCD) has performed a risk assessment validation and review of the SDM system. The primary goals of this study were to measure the effectiveness of DYRS’s placement methodology and offer suggestions for improvement. This report focuses primarily on key findings and recommendations from the validation study.