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Chapter 10

Psychology 2032A/B Chapter 10: Chapter 10 textbook

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Psychology 2032A/B
John Campbell

Chapter 10 – Risk Assessment What is Risk Assessment? • Process of risk assessment includes: o Prediction ▪ Describes probability that an individual will commit future criminal or violent acts ▪ Identifying risk factors that are related to likelihood of future violence o Management ▪ Development of interventions to manage or reduce likelihood of future violence ▪ Identifying what treatment(s) might reduce individual’s level s risk or what conditions need to be implemented to manage individuals risk Risk Assessments: When they are conducted • Conducted in civil and criminal contexts • Common to both contexts is need for information that would enable legal judgements to be made concerning probability of individuals committing some kind of act that would disrupt peace and order of state or individuals w/in state Civil Setting • Private rights of individuals and legal proceedings connected w/ such rights • Civil commitment requires individual to be hospitalized involuntarily if he/she has mental illness and poses a danger to him/herself or others o In Canada, only a psychiatrist can civilly commit someone to a hospital • Assessment of risk in child protection contexts involve laws that are in place to protect children from abuse • Immigration laws prohibit 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 social, cultural or economic functioning of Canadian society • School and labor regulations include provisions to prevent any kind of act that would endanger others • Duty to warm – mental health professionals expected to consider likelihood that their patients will act in a violent manner and to intervene to prevent such behavior Criminal Settings • Situations in which individual has been charged w/ a crime • Smith v. Jones – in cases where there is clear, serious and imminent danger, public safety out-weighs solicitor-client privileges • Changes to legislation in 1997 made indefinite incarceration only option of offender is found to be a dangerous offender • New category of dangerous persons was created, referred to as long-term offenders o To be declared long-term offender, person must pose substantial risk for violently reoffending Types of Prediction Outcomes • True positive: correct prediction, occurs when person who is predicted to be violent engages in violence • True negative: correct prediction, occurs when person who is predicted not to be violent does not act violent • False positive: incorrect prediction, occurs when person is predicted to be violent but is not • False negative: incorrect prediction, occurs when person is predicted to be nonviolent but acts violently • Minimizing false positive errors results in an increase in number of false negative errors Base Rate Problem • Represents percentage of people w/in given population who commit criminal or violent act • Many false positives occur when attempting to predict events that have a low base rate • Base rate of sexual violence tends to be low, even over extended follow-up periods, whereas base rate for violating conditions of conditional release is very high History of Risk Assessment • Baxtrom v. Herald – mentally ill offenders detained beyond sentence expiry and were released into community • Baxstrom and Dixon studies o Base rate for violence was low o False positive rate was very high o Many mentally disordered forensic patients were kept in restrictive institutions based on erroneous judgments of violence risk • Both Canadian and US courts have ruled that predictions of violence risk do not violate basic tenets of fundamental justice, nor are they unconstitutional • Barefoot v. Estelle – US Supreme Court determined constitutionality of Texas death- penalty appeal decision and concluded that mental health professionals’ (psychiatrists) predictions were not always wrong, only most of the time • R. Moore v. the Queen – Canadian courts supported role of mental health professionals in prediction of violent behavior Methodological Issues • Monahan and Steadman identified three main weaknesses of research on prediction of violence: o Limited number of risk factors being studied ▪ People engage in violence for many different reasons o How criterion variable (variable you are trying to measure) is measured, using official criminal records as their criterion measure ▪ Use of official records underestimates violence ▪ MacArthur Violence Risk Assessment Study o How criterion variable is defined Judgment Error and Biases • shortcuts people use to help to make decisions are called heuristics, which sometimes lead to inaccurate decisions • illusory correlation: belief that correlation exists b/w two events that are either nor correlated or
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