OASys - your right to a fair assessment

By Denise Marshall , from insidetime issue February 2012

Independent Risk Assessor Denise Marshall offers a fresh look at OASys

OASys - your right to a fair assessment

Marshall Phoenix Ltd is now in a position to undertake independent reviews of OASys. Should your solicitor chose to instruct us, one of our team of qualified staff, who are all experienced in preparing a range of reports for the criminal justice system, will visit you at any establishment within the United Kingdom. We will conduct a detailed review of your OASys and specify our findings in a report containing an assessment of risk and any implications relating to sentence planning.

In the decade or so since it was first introduced, OASys (the Offender Assessment System) has morphed into what is generally accepted to be one of the finest offender assessment systems in the world. But is OASys really that good? Well, of course, the answer is OASys is only as good as the assessor compiling it which begs the question, what can you do if you think your OASys contains inaccuracies or is simply unfair ?

The question that I am most frequently asked as an Independent Risk Assessor -namely, how is it that at the start of my OASys I am assessed as presenting a Low Risk, in the middle of my OASys this risk has increased to Medium and by the end I have become a High Risk?. The answer is that OASys contains three separate risk assessments, with each assessing different aspects of risk.

Beginning with the first assessment, the OGRS 3 (Offender Group Reconviction Scale version 3), which can be found around page 4 of the OASys assessment. This standardised actuarial risk assessment tool is used to predict re-offending and is similar to the type of risk assessment that is used by the motor insurance industry. When purchasing motor insurance, factors such as age, gender, cc of vehicle, number of previous accidents and length of time as a qualified driver are taken into consideration in order to predict the likelihood of an accident occurring in the future – the higher the risk, the higher the cost. In the case of re-offending, static factors, (i.e. things that can’t change) such as age at first offence, nature and frequency of offending, number of custodial sentences etc. will be taken into consideration in order to predict the percentage likelihood of the individual re-offending within a 12 and 24 month period. Of course, the obvious failing of this type of assessment is that it cannot identify which individuals out of the sample measured will actually go on to re-offend and neither can it predict the nature of the offences that they will commit.

The second assessment again used to predict risk of re-offending, combines static factors with dynamic factors such as accommodation, education, drug and/or alcohol use and thinking skills. This information, as contained in sections 2 to 12 of the OASys is then scored and weighted to produce a prediction of the likelihood of the individual committing further general or violent offences (around page 19 of the OASys). Factors contained in sections 3 to 12 of OASys can, and do, change over time and it is therefore important that the OASys is reviewed regularly and that the individual participates in that review.

The third risk assessment contained in OASys can be found around page 30 and assesses Risk of Harm. This is a clinical assessment, in other words the opinion of the assessor based on their professional knowledge and experience. Although this part of the assessment should be evidence-based, in the end it is still the professional opinion of the assessor and not an empirically-based prediction of risk.

Once completed, OASys is used to generate a range of reports and informs sentence planning and risk management. OASys, and particularly the Risk of Harm assessment, will influence decisions regarding HDC, ROTL, re-categorisation, Parole and release on Life Licence. It is arguably the most influential document in the sentence planning and management process and accordingly, it is imperative that it is unbiased and factually correct. And herein lies an inherent problem because, OASys can only be completed by a trained assessor and training is restricted to employees of the Probation and Prison services. This is, of course, absolutely fine if the information contained in your OASys is unbiased and factually accurate. But what can you do if you think that your OASys is inaccurate and that as a result, you are being prevented from progressing through the prison system?

In the first instance you should speak to your Offender Supervisor who, like your Offender Manager, can unlock and amend your OASys at any point during your sentence. And if your Offender Supervisor is unable to help, you should write to your Offender Manager and advise him or her of your concerns. In many instances Offender Supervisors and Managers will be willing to consider your views and amend any inaccuracies. But what can you do if this approach fails? Contact your solicitor and show him this article.

So if you have a problem and you think we may be able to help, please feel free to write to us, outlining your situation and including your solicitor’s contact details, or contact us via your solicitor.

Denise Marshall – Marshall Pheonix Ltd

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Comments about this article

1/2/2012 Steven Battram -

OASys, poppycock, is the short response. The OASys is not one of the best offender assessment systems in the world, but it is a world beating system for abusing and manipulating prisoners rights to freedom. After all who is compiling the reports, people with vested interests of recidivism, people who earn a living keeping fellow human beings incarcerated.

The penal system is growing into a system this country will soon be unable to afford. Prison only works whilst the offender is in prison, upon release it's anyone's guess how he/she will behave. I would guess offenders would say and do anything to get a favourable OASys report, so are they reliable, or accurate? Nothing that is linked to the prison system and the POA is credible, as prison is only effective whilst the offender is behind 18 foot high walls. The report isn't worth the paper it's printed on after the offender is released, it's certainly not accurate. 'Yes sir. No sir. Three bags full sir.' This man is ready for release. Is he, or is he doing and saying anything to be released? 'Do you want me to bend over sir?' 'Shall I get on my knees sir?' 'Sir my tongue is turning brown?' 'Shut up and keep licking my ar*e.' 'Yes sir, right away sir.' And then he's released, how accurate is the OASys now?

2/2/2012 Anita bromilow -

My son got 20 mnths for stabbing someone was looking at 6 to 8 yrs but witness's never turned up he already put a not guilty in so e got done sec 20 . He's out in may n I'm in a housing association house n they won't let him stay here and he has been told he will hav to go in hostel and he's high risk to public due to stabbing he did so he won't b able to go in hostel please help where can he go. By lettin me know of options to stay thank u

4/2/2012 Steven Battram -

THIS IS TRUE AND FACTUAL I served approved school, 2 whacks of Rochester Borstal, 5-yr, 7-yr and 18-yr prison sentences. Without exception, everyone I know who experienced prison regimes left prison much worse than when they entered.

I know how much the British government and public loves to imprison its citizens, as if prison it's the answer and solution. Imprison and forget, justice has been served. The only problem is prison only works whilst the offender is imprisoned, upon release statistics prove offenders are likely to re-offend, and re-offend and re-offend again.

Best lock offenders up forever, the IPP sentence. Only problem is, IPP sentenced prisoners are becoming bitter and resentful. I can foresee serious trouble when hundreds of IPP prisoners in the same prison lose hope and rebel. Sleep tight, something will give soon.

13/3/2012 carl

if your son has served 20 months then he be on licence i take it he got convicted. if this is the case he will have to do approx 3 months in a bail hostel this will be organised by his offending manager and he will have licence conditions
for example be in the hostel overnight, where he can and cannot go. ect ect.
if he was found not guilty then he does not need to disclose the period he was in jail on remand
but reading your letter it be a bail hostel seriously they are not that bad he have to pay a small mount per week for his keep between £25-30 depending where he is he be allowed out but obiously he have signing times to be at the hostel so dont look negative at the hostel at least he be out of jail

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This article appears under the following categories...
Human Rights
Legal Issues

Summary of headlines for February 2012
A Nation of ‘Incarcoholics’
Month by Month
Prisoners are human beings, they’re citizens and they’ve got rights as citizens’
The Keystone Cops are back
Prisoners and the media
Hidden UK Gun Crime
The argument for polygraph tests
Current page: OASys - your right to a fair assessment
The Victims Levy and the Prisoners Earnings Act 1996 an Update
The Probation Service... Your life in their hands!
20 years in San Quentin
Probation privatisation ‘to cut costs and reoffending’
Magna Carta and All That
A high number of foreign national women in prison are trafficked or coerced into offending
O Brave New World
From over the wall
Big shoes to fill
Prison Widow
Licences and Licence conditions
Restraint & Receivers

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