Offender Assessment Index (OAI)

Many individuals in the community are in need of psychological services when they are arrested. The criminal justice system is an important contact point for the adult offenders (Hammett, Gaiter & Crawford, 1998). Offender’s can be screened for problems and directed to appropriate agencies for help, treatment and rehabilitation. The Offender Assessment Index (OAI) is an adult defendant assessment or screening test. Screening adult defendants to identify problems facilitates placement of defendants into appropriate intervention or treatment programs at appropriate supervision and treatment levels. Accurate, reliable and valid defendant risk and needs assessment is essential for defining defendant populations for placement in programs such as ISPs (Intensive Supervision Programs), Fulton, Gendreau & Paparozzi, 1995.

According to Fulton, et al. (1995) risk and needs assessment should involve a compilation of criminal history along with other defendant behavioral history which includes substance abuse, violence potential, personal resistance and cooperation factors. These factors are incorporated in the Offender Assessment Index (OAI). For intervention and treatment programs to be effective defendants “risk level” must match programs “treatment intensity” level. That is, high risk defendants should be placed in high intensity programs and low risk defendants placed in low intensity programs. Andrews, Bonta & Hoge (1990) found that placing low risk defendants in high intensity treatment programs (and vice versa) can be harmful. The OAI was designed specifically for the purpose of aiding proper defendant placement (type of treatment and intensity).

Everything needed for court-related assessments, intervention and treatment referral and program intake decisions is summarized in one report. The OAI takes on average 35 minutes to complete. It consists of 158 true-false and multiple choice items. OAI reports are scored and printed on-site within 2½ minutes of data (answers) entry. The OAI contains seven (7) scales (measures or domains)” Truthfulness Scale, Resistance Scale, Violence Scale, Stress Coping (Management) Abilities Scale, Substance Abuse/Dependency Scale, Alcohol Scale and Drug Scale.

Seven OAI Scales

  • Truthfulness Scale: Measures the truthfulness of the defendant while completing the OAI. This Truthfulness Scale identifies faking, denial and attempts to “fake good.”
  • Resistance Scale: Measures client defensiveness, non-compliance and oppositional behaviors. This scale varies directly with the client’s attitude, feelings, outlook and behavior.
  • Violence Scale: measures a person’s tendency to injure, damage or destroy. Characterized by cruelty, use of excessive force, coercion and brutality. The Violence Scale identifies dangerous people.
  • Stress Coping Abilities Scale: measures a person’s ability to cope effectively with stress. Stress exacerbates emotional and behavioral problems.
  • Substance Abuse/Dependency Scale: utilizes DSM-IV criteria to classify substance (alcohol or drugs) dependency and substance abuse. This is a classification (not a measurement) scale.
  • Alcohol Scale: measures the severity of alcohol use and related problems. Alcohol refers to beer, wine and other liquor.
  • Drug Scale: measures the severity of illicit drug (marijuana, crack, cocaine, amphetamines, barbiturates and heroin) use and related problems.

OFFENDER ASSESSMENT INDEX: Relationship between DSM-IV classification, severity of substance condition and the American Society of Addiction Medicine(ASAM) guidelines

“In general all individuals accepted for treatment of addiction in defined levels of care are expected to have met diagnostic criteria for a psychoactive substance use disorder as defined by DSM-IV criteria or other standardized and widely accepted criteria, but whose symptoms are severe enough to warrant an assessment,” American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM).

The Offender Assessment Index (OAI) contains a Substance Dependency/Abuse Scale that incorporates the seven DSM-IV Substance Dependency criteria items and the four DSM-IV Substance Abuse criteria items. The Offender Assessment Index Alcohol Scale and Drug Scale measure risk or severity level and include DSM-IV equivalent items to support DSM-IV criteria items. Defendant admission of three or more of the seven DSM-IV dependency items results in Substance Dependence classification. Similarly, defendant admission to one of the four DSM-IV abuse items results in Substance Abuse classification.

ASAM recommends four levels of intervention or care based on the severity of the defendant’s alcohol and/or other drugs condition. And treatment within any level of care may be modified according to the severity of the defendant’s substance-related condition. Offender Assessment Index Alcohol Scale and Drug Scale scores represent the severity of the defendant’s drinking and/or other drug condition.

ASAM states there are exceptions to DSM-IV classification-related levels of care and these involve defendant’s whose symptom severity warrants adjusting their intervention or treatment. The Offender Assessment Index works in a similar manner. When OAI defendants meet DSM-IV criteria for substance dependence they are so classified. When they do not meet dependence criteria they are then considered for substance abuse. When defendants meet the DSM-IV substance abuse criteria they are so classified. Moreover, the severity of a defendant’s substance condition is measured by the OAI’s Alcohol Scale and Drug Scale. And consistent with ASAM procedures, the severity of the client’s substance condition determines recommended levels of intervention or treatment. As noted by ASAM, the severity of a defendant’s condition directly influences the intervention or treatment timetable.

In summary, the Offender Assessment Index (OAI) helps classify defendants into Substance (alcohol and/or other drugs) Dependence, Substance Abuse or non-pathological (not classified as dependent or abuse). Concurrently, Offender Assessment Index (OAI) Alcohol Scale and Drug Scale scores show the severity of each defendant’s substance (alcohol and other drug) related condition. It is emphasized that the Offender Assessment Index is to be used in conjunction with an interview, review of available records and experienced staff judgment. And, as a defendant moves through screening, adjudication of their case, intervention, program intake and/or treatment -- the defendant’s status is continually assessed and adjusted as warranted.