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Lecture 15

PSYC 2400E - Lecture 15 - March 7, 2013.docx

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PSYC 2400
Julie Dempsey

Thursday, March 7, 2013 PSYC 2400 - Winter 2013 Lecture 15 Risk Assessment: Guest Lecturer Leslie Helmus Learning Objectives:  What is risk assessment  Static and dynamic risk factors  Approaches to risk assessment (ways to combine risk factors)  Issues with special populations  Issues in picking a risk assessment instrument  Level of predictive accuracy Why Should We Care?  The public sure does. Always a hot topic!  Who wants to live next door to a high-risk sex offender???  What would you do if you were assaulted by someone who was on parole?  Risk assessment informs:  Sentencing (especially D.O. hearings), classification (type of prison), treatment needs, treatment intensity, parole decisions, level of supervision, notification decisions, release conditions…  One of the biggest jobs in forensic psychology Risk Assessment Risk prediction  Assess the risk that people will commit another offence in the future  Depends on what kind of offence they may commit Risk management  Develop effective intervention strategies to manage that risk  Example: parole officer visits house, or offender has to report to parole officer more frequently Is This Person at Risk?  Jack (sex offender):  36 years old; Only child  Frequent contact with both parents who visit often  Completed university. Worked as engineer for same company for past 10 years  No criminal record  Obsessed with pornography  Regularly utilizes services of prostitutes  Cannot maintain a relationship with an adult woman  Believes that young children are mature enough to consent to sexual activity, and having sex with them is okay as long as no violence is used  What are his risks?  In general: low-risk  For sex offences: moderate-high Origins of Risk Assessment  Baxstrom Case (1966, U.S. Supreme Court)  966 “criminally insane” and “dangerous” patients released or moved to low security  98 released patients followed for four years  20 rearrested, only 2 for violent offences Goals of Risk Assessment  Improve accuracy (need to be accurate for offender or community)  Improve transparency (need to be able to prove)  Improve consistency What do we Consider in a Risk Assessment?  Risk Factors  A variable that is related to recidivism (only specific variables need to be looked at) Static Risk Factors  Fixed and unchanging (historical – something that happened in the past)  Most convenient (can just look at the offender’s record)  Most frequently used  Can be reliably measured and are very predictive  Examples: first time crime committed, frequency of criminal acts, age, gender  Limitations: can’t judge everything by the offender’s past Examples of Static Risk Factors  Demographic variables (age, gender-young males are higher risk)  History of criminal behaviour (age of first crime)  Childhood history (abuse, separated parents) Dynamic Risk Factors  Change with time(get better or worse)  Less convenient, less reliable (need detailed interviews to get info)  Less frequently used  BUT: sensitive to change. With intervention, can change level of risk Examples of Dynamic Risk Factors 2 main types: 1) Stable dynamic: persistent and change slowly, if at all (personality traits, substance abuse) 2) Acute dynamic: rapidly fluctuating (relationships) “Central 8” Risk Factors 1) Criminal History 2) Procriminal Personality (impulsive, aggressive) 3) Procriminal Attitudes (beliefs that support criminal behaviour) 4) Procriminal Associates (who you hang out with) 5) Family/Marital Problems 6) School/Work Problems 7) Inappropriate use of Leisure Time (people with no interests) 8) Substance Abuse NOT risk factors  These variables are commonly mistaken for risk factors  Low SES (socio-economic status)  Personal distress/psychopathology  Also includes low self-esteem or depression  Fear of punishment (how scared they are to go back to jail)  Verbal intelligence  Remorse/empathy  Offence severity Unique Risk Factors  Domestic Violence  Jealousy, number of step-children (the more step children, the more likely they are to commit domestic offense), hostility towards women  Sexual Offending  Sexual preoccupations (think about sex/have sex all the time), deviant sexual interests, emotional identification with children, stranger victims Approaches 1. Unstructured clinical judgment 2. Actuarial tools 3. Structured professional judgment Unstructured Clinical Judgment  Subjectively select, analyze, and interpret risk factors  Opinion, gut instinct Advantages • Flexible (can use with any kind of offender) • Idiographic (case-specific) Disadvantages • Inconsistent (very subjective) • Low accuracy Actuarial Tools  Collect pre-specified risk factors and enter them into a statistical model that combines and weights them  Specific coding rules for how you score each risk factor  Mechanical approach Actuarial Advantages • Consistent • High predictive accuracy depending on tools • Often has recidivism estimates Disadvantages • Nomothetic (based on previous offenders, not case-specific; how similar offenders have behaved in the past) • Validity across different samples (if based on ales, cannot use on female offenders) Actuarial Example: VRAG Quinsey et al. (2001)  Consists of 12 weighted static risk factors  Added together to give overall probability of risk  Developed to assess risk of violence Actuarial Example: VRAG Items  1. PCL-R score (+)
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