Offender Screening Tool (OST)
The offender screening tool (OST) is an assessment of the defendant’s risk to reoffend and criminogenic needs. There are 9 categories, or domains, assessed in the OST. The OST is a standardized, statewide, validated tool approved by the Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC).
The OST contains 42-items related to risk/needs to assess the presence of a variety of lifestyle type issues among individuals in conflict with the law. Items are grouped into 9 categories related to specific risk/need issues. The OST is normally based on a review of relevant file information and an interview with the individual. Some judgment is required in scoring items on the OST.
There are two important issues relevant to scoring the OST. First, each OST item is scored based on information obtained from available file information, a face-to-face interview, and the staff’s professional judgment. In addition, the interview should be based on a discussion between interviewer and offender. It should not be based on an interrogation, which is characterized by extensive use of closed-ended (yes/no) type questions (e.g., “you don’t have any physical problems, do you?, “do you have enough money to meet your needs?”, etc.). An interview dialogue is characterized by a conversational exchange that primarily involves open-ended type questions that stimulate discussion (e.g., “tell me about your criminal history”), that can be followed with closed-ended questions for clarification (e.g., “do you have two or three priors?”).
The second important issue in scoring the OST relates to scoring criteria. Generally speaking, OST items are scored on the basis of patterns of behavior rather than single incidents. For example, an offender may have a single incident of alcohol use, which could be viewed as ‘social use’. On the other hand, ‘problematic use’ of alcohol would be characterized by excessive frequency (too often), amount (too much), or resulting in negative outcomes (e.g., social disruption, legal consequences etc.). As a general rule, OST User’s should have at least one or two reasons why each OST item is scored as it is. Finally, effort should be made to score each OST item on the basis of independent evidence, rather than using a single behavioral episode to score multiple OST items.
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