Forensic Psychology: Risk Assessment

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Risk Assessment concerns prediction and management of people who are at risk of committing a criminal act. This includes Acturial reports which statistically determine the top risk factors, structured and unstructured interviews.

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Forensic Psychology: Risk Assessment

  1. 1. Risk Assessment 12 - 1
  2. 2. What is Risk Assessment? Risk is viewed as a range (Steadman, 2000)  Probabilities change across time  Interaction among offender characteristics and situation Risk Assessment has 2 components:  Prediction  Management 12 - 2
  3. 3. Risk Assessments: Civil Settings Civil commitment Child protection Immigration laws School and labour regulations Duty to warn & limits of confidentiality  W. v. Egdell (1990) (UK)  Tarasoff case (1974) (US) 12 - 3
  4. 4. Risk Assessments: CriminalSettings Risk assessments conducted at major decision points:  Pretrial  Sentencing  Release Public safety outweighs solicitor-client privilege  Smith v. Jones 12 - 4
  5. 5. Predictions:Decisions Versus Outcomes OUTCOME Reoffends Does notDECISION reoffendPredicted to True positive False positivereoffend (correct) (incorrect)Predicted to False negative True negativenot reoffend (incorrect) (correct) 5
  6. 6. Base Rates Represents the % of people within a given population who commit a criminal or violent act  Accurate prediction difficult when base rates are too high or low  False positives tend to occur with low base rates Easier to predict frequent vs. infrequent events 12 - 6
  7. 7. Methodological Issues Assumptions of risk assessment and measurement  Ideal evaluation vs. reality Three weaknesses of research (Monahan & Steadman, 1994):  Limited number of risk factors  How criterion variable is measured  How criterion variable is defined 12 - 7
  8. 8. Other Methodological Challenges Measuring recidivism 1. Problems with outcome measures 2. Length of outcome period 3. Categories of offenders 8
  9. 9. Judgment Error and Biases Heuristics  Illusorycorrelation  Ignore base rates  Reliance on salient or unique cues Overconfidence in judgements Role of gender 12 - 9
  10. 10. Unstructured Clinical Judgment Decisions characterized by professional discretion and lack of guidelines Subjective No specific risk factors No rules about how risk decisions should be made 12 - 10
  11. 11. Dr. James Grigson Nicknamed “Dr. Death” or “the hanging shrink” Forensic psychiatrist in Dallas  Used unstructured clinical judgment  Expelled from professional association for claims of 100% accuracy in predicting violence 12 - 11
  12. 12. Measuring Accuracy of Dangerousness Predictions Ultimate OutcomeClinician’s predictions Homicide No HomicideHomicide 8 (True Positives) 1,998 (False Positives)No Homicide 2 (False Negatives) 7,992 (True negatives) 12 - 12
  13. 13. Actuarial Prediction Decisions based on risk factors that are selected and combined based on empirical or statistical evidence Evidence favours actuarial assessments over unstructured clinical judgment 12 - 13
  14. 14. Static-99-R – An ActuarialMeasure young have not lived with a lover for 2+ years index-non-sexual violence previous nonsexual violence number of previous sentencing dates previous sexual offences physical harm to victim during sex offence(s), or use of weapon or threats any non-contact sex offences any unrelated victims any stranger victims any male victims 14 14
  15. 15. Actuarial vs. Clinical JudgmentSource # of Variables Predicted Clinical Statistical Tie studies Better BetterGrove et al. 136 Success in 8 63 65(2000) school/military; recidivism; recovery from psychosis; personality; tx outcome; dx; job success and satisfaction; medical dx; marital satisfactionÆgisdóttir et 51 Brain impairment; 5 25 18al. (2006) personality; length of stay; dx; adjustment or prognosis; violence; IQ; academic performance; suicide risk; sexual orientation; MMPI – real or fake 12 - 15
  16. 16. Structured Professional Judgment Decisions guided by predetermined list of risk factors derived from research literature Judgement of risk level is based on professional judgement Diverse group of professionals 12 - 16
  17. 17. Types of Predictors Static Risk Factors  Historical  Factors that cannot be changed Dynamic Risk Factors  Fluctuate over time  Factors that can be changed  Acute vs. stable dynamic risk factors 12 - 17
  18. 18. Important Risk Factors Dispositional Historical Clinical Contextual 12 - 18
  19. 19. HCR-20 Historical items 1. Previous violence 2. Young age at first violent incident 3. Relationship instability 4. Employment problems 5. Substance use problems 6. Major mental illness 7. Psychopathy 8. Early maladjustment 9. Personality disorder 10. Prior supervision failure 19 19
  20. 20. HCR-20 Clinical items 1. Lack of insight 2. Negative attitudes 3. Active symptoms of major mental illness 4. Impulsivity 5. Unresponsive to treatment 20 20
  21. 21. HCR-20 Risk management items 1. Plans lack feasibility 2. Exposure to destabilizers 3. Lack of personal support 4. Noncompliance with remediation attempts 5. Stress 21 21
  22. 22. Current Issues Protective factors  Factors that reduce or mitigate the likelihood of violence Use of scientific research  Practitioners not using instruments Where is the theory?  More attention on WHY is needed 12 - 22

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