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Post Conviction Risk Assessment

The federal Post Conviction Risk Assessment (PCRA) is a scientifically based instrument developed by the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts (AO) to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of post-conviction supervision.

The PCRA makes it possible for officers to focus their efforts on the people who are at the greatest risk of failing on supervision and committing new crimes.

The United States probation and pretrial services system embraces evidence-based practices (EBP), which employ the best available scientific data to influence supervision decisions. A key element of the evidence-­based approach is the use of the PCRA to achieve maximum, measurable reductions in recidivism. Using the PCRA, officers can make informed decisions about:

  • Which persons to target for correctional interventions.
  • What characteristics or needs to address.
  • How to deliver supervision and treatment in a way that produces the best outcomes.

On this page, you will find links to two important documents that provide more information about the PCRA:

The Overview of the Post Conviction Risk Assessment provides an easy-to-digest overview of risk assessment and the use of the PCRA in the United States probation system. You will find:

  • A summary of the history of risk assessment in the United States probation and pretrial services system and the purpose and development of the PCRA.
  • A description of EBPs and principles that form the foundation for risk and needs assessment instruments.
  • A discussion of implementation issues, such as training and certification, and the AO’s ongoing monitoring and research on the PCRA.

The PCRA Research Compendium summarizes the empirical research on the PCRA to date. This document will be updated over time to incorporate the latest research.

Research Articles from Federal Probation Journal

This journal is published each June, September, and December by the Administrative Office of U.S. Courts and presents current thought, research, and practice in corrections, community supervision, and criminal justice.

The Construction and Validation of the Federal Post Conviction Risk Assessment (PCRA) (September, 2011)

Does the risk of recidivism for supervised offenders improve over time?: Examining changes in the dynamic risk characteristics for offenders under federal supervision (September, 2014)

The neglected “R” — Responsivity and the federal offender (September, 2014)

Examining overrides of risk classifications for offenders on federal supervision (June, 2016)

The supervision of low risk offenders: How the low-risk policy has changed federal supervision practices without compromising community safety (June, 2016)

Examining changes in offender risk characteristics and recidivism outcomes (September, 2016)

How dangerous are they?: An analysis of sex offenders under federal post-conviction supervision (September, 2016)

Using a multi-level risk assessment to inform case planning and risk management: Implications for officers (September, 2016)

Removal of the non-scored items from the Post Conviction Risk Assessment instrument: An evaluation of data-driven risk research with the federal system (September, 2017)

Research Articles from Other Publications

These articles are from publications not a part of the federal Judiciary and will require an account to access: 

The Federal Post Conviction Risk Assessment (PCRA): A Construction and Validation Study (November, 2012)

Does change in risk matter?: Examining whether change in offender risk characteristics influence recidivism outcomes (January, 2015)

PCRA revisited: Testing the validity of the Federal Post-Conviction Risk Assessment (PCRA) (March, 2015)

Predicting recidivism with the Psychological Inventory of Criminal Thinking Styles (PICTS) in community-supervised male and female federal offenders (August, 2015)

Gender, risk assessment, and sanctioning: The cost of treating women like men (January, 2016)

Criminal thought process as a dynamic risk factor: Variable- and person-oriented approaches to recidivism prediction (March, 2016)

The predictive validity of the Post-Conviction Risk Assessment among federal offenders (June, 2016)

Risk, race, and recidivism: Predictive bias and disparate impact (June, 2016)

Time-free effects in predicting recidivism using both fixed and variable follow-up periods: Do different methods produce different results (December, 2016)

Age, risk assessment, and sanctioning: Overestimating the old, underestimating the young (May, 2017)

Is Corrections “Collar” Blind: Examining the Predictive Validity of a Risk/Needs Assessment Tool on White-Collar Offenders (July, 2017)

Federal Criminal Careers: an Empirical Examination of the Post-Conviction Risk Assessment (PCRA) (March, 2018)

Using algorithms to address trade‐offs inherent in predicting recidivism (May, 2020)

Risk Assessment Overrides: Shuffling the Risk Deck Without Any Improvements in Prediction (pdf) (September, 2020)