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Chapter 10

Chapter 10- Risk Assessment.docx

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Richard B Day

Psych 3CC3: Forensic Psychology Chapter 10: Risk Assessment What is Risk Assessment? - Risk is regarded as a range:  Highlights the idea that probabilities may change across time  Recognizes that risk level reflects and interaction among a person’s characteristics, background, and possible future situations that will affect whether the person engages in violent behaviour - Includes a prediction and management component - Prediction:  Describes the probability that an individual will commit future criminal or violent acts  Identify the risk factors that are related to this likelihood of future violence - Management:  Describes the development of interventions to manage or reduce likelihood of future violence  Identify what treatments might reduce level of risk or what conditions need to be implemented to manage risk Risk Assessments: When are they Conducted? - Civil setting:  Refers to the private rights of individuals and the legal proceedings connected with such rights  Civil commitment requires an individual to be hospitalized involuntarily if he or she has a mental illness and poses a danger to him- or herself or others. In Canada, only a psychiatrist can civilly commit someone to a hospital  Child protection contexts involves the laws that are in place to protect children from abuse  Immigration laws prohibit the admission of individuals into Canada if there are reasonable grounds for believing they will engage in acts of violence or if they pose a risk to the social, cultural, or economic functioning of Canadian society  School and labour regulations also provide provisions to prevent any kind of act that would endanger others  Duty to warn and limits of confidentiality - Criminal settings:  Refers to situations in which an individual has been charged with a crime  Assessment of risk occurs at every major decision point, including pretrial, sentencing, and release  Disclosure of information about potential risk: when solicitor privilege and doctor-patient confidentiality must be set aside for the protection of members of the public  In cases where there is clear serious, and imminent danger, public safety outweighs solicitor-client privilege  Risk assessment is a critical component of certain kinds of sentencing decisions  Risk assessment is also required for decisions concerning release from correctional and forensic psychiatric institutions History of Risk Assessment - Baxstrom and Dixon studies:  The base rate for violence was relatively low  The false positive rate was very high  Mentally disordered forensic patients were needlessly kept in restrictive institutions based on erroneous judgments of violence risk - Both Canadian and U.S. courts have ruled that predicitons of violence risk do not violate the basic tenets of fundamental justice, nor are they unconstitutional Types of Prediction Outcomes - True positive is a correct prediction and occurs when a person who is predicted to be violent engages in violence - True negative is a correct prediction and occurs when a person who is predicted to not be violent does not act violently - False positive is an incorrect prediction and occurs when a person is predicted to be violent but is not - False negative is an incorrect prediction and occurs when a person is predicted to be nonviolent but acts violently - Minimizing the number of false positive errors results in an increase in the number of false negative errors - False positive error has implications for the individual being assessed, whereas false negative errors has implications for the society and the potential victim. The Base Rate Problem - Represents the percentage of people within a given population who commit a criminal or violent act - Difficult to make accurate predictions when base rates are too high or too low - Low base rate: many false positives will occur - Can vary depending on the group being studied, what is being predicted, and the length of the follow-up period over which the individual is monitored - Easier to predict frequent events than infrequent events Methodological Issues - Sample size available for evaluating risk-assessment instrument is limited to those with low risk of offending - Three main weakness of research on the prediction of violence:  Limited number of risk factors being studied  How the criterion variable is measured:  MacArthur Violence Risk Assessment Study  Use of official records underestimates violence  Official records combined with interviews and collateral reports; rate of violence increases  How the criterion variable is defined is a concern Judgment Error and Biases - Shortcuts people use to make decisions are called heuristics and lead to inaccurate decisions - Illusory correlation: belief that a correlation exists between two events that in reality are either not correlated or correlated to a much lesser degree - Clinicians tend to ignore base rates of violence - Desmarais, et al. (2010: most clinicians were highly confident, however, the association between confidence and accuracy was minimal Approaches to the Assessment of Risk - Unstructured clinical judgment: characterized by professional discretion and lack of guidelines  Vary across clinicians and vary across cases - Mechanical prediction: predefined rules about what risk factors to consider, how information should be collected, and how information should be combined to make a risk decision  Actuarial prediction: risk factors used have been selected and combined based on their empirical or statistical association with a specific outcome  Weight of the evidence favours actuarial assessments of risk  Sole reliance on static risk factors does not allow to measure changes in risk over time or provide information relevant for intervention - Structured professional judgment: predetermined list of risk factors that have been selected from the research and professional literature Types of Predictors - Static risk factors: do not fluctuate over time and are not changed by treatment - Dynamic risk factors: fluctuate over time and are amenable to change - Risk factors as a continuous construct - Dynamic factors are related to the imminence of engaging in violent behaviour Important Risk Factors - Factors that predict general recidivism also predict violent or sexual recidivism - Predictors of recidivism in offenders with mental disorders overlap considerably with predictors found among offenders who do not have a mental disorder - Historical risk factors: events experienced in the past and include general social history and specific criminal history variables  Past behaviour:  Most accurate predictor of future behaviour  Also past nonviolent behaviour  Age of onset  Individuals who start their antisocial behaviour at an earlier age are more chronic and serious offenders  Age of onset is not as strong a predictor for female offenders  Childhood history of maltreatment  History of childhood physical abuse or neglect is associated with increased risk of violence  Being abused in childhood predicts initiation into delinquency, but continued abuse predicts chronic offending - Dispositional risk factors: reflect the person’s traits, tendencies, or style and include demographic, attitudinal, and personality variables  Demographics:  The younger the person is at the time of his or her first offence, the greater the likelihood that person will engage in criminal behaviour  Offenders who are arrested prior to age 14 tend to have more serious
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