University of Alabama researchers will soon begin a four-year, $1.9 million validation study of the Alabama Department of Corrections’ women’s risk needs assessment process.
The ADOC is entering its third year of using the Women’s Risk Needs Assessment, or WRNA, a series of assessments conducted upon arrival at Julia Tutwiler Prison for Women, every six months thereafter and prior to release. WRNA, which assesses risks to staff and other inmates and determines the level of custody to place a prisoner, was developed 10 years ago through collaboration between the National Institute of Corrections and researchers at the University of Cincinnati.
The validation study will cover the entire spectrum of the WRNA program at three women’s detention facilities in the state: Montgomery Women’s Facility, Birmingham Community Based Facility and Tutwiler. Researchers from UA’s department of criminology and criminal justice will study how WRNA is associated with particular likelihoods of misconduct or recidivism after release and to ensure the program is being run with fidelity.
“We can make generalizations about associations between particular risks and needs and inmate misconduct, but looking at three different prisons in Alabama, I think, will give us a good regional assessment of this particular document,” said Dr. Jennifer Kenney, assistant professor in UA’s department of criminology and criminal justice.
Kenney said it’s difficult to make determinations on prison reforms since researchers aren’t typically afforded access to correctional facilities, unless they’re working together. The study will provide both academics and prison practitioners a unique opportunity to learn if WRNA is working in Alabama and if its programming and results can be duplicated in other states.