Juvenile Justice & Assessment

Program Description

Juvenile justice systems need ways to identify youths’ mental health and rehabilitation needs across various settings (such as pretrial detention, juvenile court clinics, probation, and juvenile corrections). Systems can also benefit from assistance in applying developmental research and incorporating this information into their laws, policies, and practices.

Our research focuses on improving the identification of and response to the behavioral health and delinquency risk of youth in juvenile justice systems. We help juvenile justice systems to adopt best practices for the screening and assessment of youth to address these needs and to decrease the likelihood that they will offend in the future. We have had a series of studies assessing the effectiveness of implementing risk/needs assessment and behavioral health screening tools into different points of the juvenile justice system. We are also interested in how juveniles’ psychological developmental characteristics impact their functioning in legal settings. We provide technical assistance to states regarding juveniles’ competence to stand trial, including brief consultations, sharing applicable research findings, giving input on proposed bills, and providing written and/or oral legislative testimony.

 Our current studies examine:

  • The screening (e.g., MAYSI-2) and assessment of behavioral health needs of youth in juvenile justice settings
  • The assessment of potential for serious re-offending of youth and the best targets for intervention to decrease the likelihood of re-offending
  • Integrating mental health or risk for re-offending screening and assessment procedures into diversion, dispositional and case planning
  • The development of callous-unemotional traits in youth and young adults
  • The assessment of forensic issues and national policy to assist judicial decisions such as youths' competence to stand trial
  • The underlying functionalities of adolescent substance abuse in the brain
  • Creation and validation of short or comprehensive risk instruments to be used at various decision points
  • Implementation research for screening and assessment activities in the juvenile justice system
  • Implementation of developmental research to provide technical assistance to states to develop or improve systems related to competence to stand trial
  • The impact of development upon youth's functining in legal contexts
vincent_research_thumbGina Vincent, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Psychiatry
grisso_research_thumbThomas Grisso, Ph.D.
Emeritus Professor of Psychiatry
Researcher ImageKim Larson, J.D., Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Psychiatry
Researcher ImageAlbert Grudzinskas, J.D.
Assistant Professor of Psychiatry


Ongoing Research Projects

Risk Assessment in Juvenile Probation: Contributions of Mental Health & Substance Abuse to Case Planning & Reoffending

Title: Risk Assessment in Juvenile Probation: Contributions of Mental Health & Substance Abuse to Case Planning & Reoffending
1/1/2014 - 12/30/2016
Funder: John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation & the Office of Juvenile Justice & Delinquency Prevention
Funding: $500,000
PI: Gina Vincent, Ph.D.

Description:  A two-year quasi-experimental research study of the impact of implementing risk assessment and risk-needs responsivity in juvenile probation offices in two states.

Assessing Threats to the Developmental Reform in Juvenile Justice

Title: Assessing Threats to the Developmental Reform in Juvenile Justice
1/1/2014 - 6/30/2016
Funder: John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation
Funding: $436,220
PI: Thomas Grisso, Ph.D.

Description: This two year project will identify threats to the current wave of juvenile justice reform. Recent nationwide reform of juvenile justice policies and initiatives has been based on principles that promote healthy youth development with evidence-based practices. This study uses strategic threat assessment and forecasting models that identify consensus among a national panel of experts regarding challenges that threaten the continuance of this reform.  The project will provide the field a set of strategies to mitigate threats to the continued progress of the current developmental reform of juvenile justice in the United States.

Validation and Implementation of the OYAS-Div Risk Screen Project

Title: Validation and Implementation of the OYAS-Div Risk Screen Project

PI: Gina Vincent, Ph.D.

Funding: Arkansas Advocates for Children and Family

Budget: $22,003

Time Frame: 4/1/2015 - 3/31/2016


Description: This subcontract is to locally validate and implement the Diversion version of the Ohio Youth Assessment System in juvenile intake offices in Arkansas. Gina Vincent, PhD (PI) and Rachael Perrault, MA (Research Project Director) at UMMS will oversee the integration of the OYAS screen into juvenile intake in one county for data gathering purposes. The goal is to obtain a sample of 200 to 250 youth who receive an OYAS screen by an intake worker. This sample of youth will be used to derive a temporary cutoff score on the OYAS based on the overall distribution of scores. Re-offense data on this sample of youth will be needed to derive a more valid cutoff score for the OYAS screen for use at juvenile intake in Arkansas. Once the sample of 200 to 250 cases is drawn, UMMS will work with the IT Department to track new petition data for this sample in Contexte. We will track new petitions (and convictions) for a period of six months. Once the re-offense data are obtained from the IT Department, UMMS will conduct Cox Regressions and Receiver Operating Characteristic curves to determine the best cutoff for use of the OYAS diversion screen. At that time, UMMS will assist the AOC with implementing the tool throughout intake departments by drafting policy and determining exactly how it will be used in diversion decisions.

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