We now have added "Informational Posts" which are tidbits of information that may come in handy at some point.

SVP risk tools show 'disappointing' reliability in real-world use

6-4-2012 National:

Rater agreement on three instruments commonly used to assess sex offenders' risk of recidivism is much lower in practice than reported in the tools' manuals, according to a new study out of Florida.

Faring most poorly was the Psychopathy Checklist (PCL-R). Correlations of scores between two evaluators hired by the same agency were in the low range. On average, psychologists differed by five points on the instrument, which has a score range of of zero to 40. In one case, two evaluators were apart by a whopping 24 points!

Agreement among evaluators was only moderate on the Static-99 and the MnSOST-R, two actuarial risk assessment instruments for which scoring is relatively more straightforward.

The study, published in the respected journal Psychological Assessment, was a collaboration between scholars from the Department of Mental Health Law and Policy at the University of South Florida and researchers with the Florida Department of Children and Families. It utilized archived records culled from the almost 35,000 individuals screened for possible Sexually Violent Predators (SVP) civil commitment in Florida between 1999 and 2009. The researchers located 315 cases in which the same individual was evaluated by separate clinicians who each administered both the PCL-R and at least one of the two actuarial measures within a short enough time frame to enable direct scoring comparisons.

It would be a mistake to lean too heavily on the results of a single isolated study. But the present study adds to a burgeoning body from several groups of independent researchers, all pointing to troubling problems with the accuracy of instruments designed to forecast risk of recidivism among sex offenders.

Related study: Psychopathy and sexual deviance not predictive

Collectively, the research has been especially critical of the ability of the highly prejudicial construct of psychopathy to add meaningfully to risk prediction in this high-stakes arena. Indeed, just this week another study has come out indicating that neither psychopathy scores nor sexual deviance measures improve on the accuracy provided by an actuarial instrument alone.

An especially interesting finding of that Canadian study is that reoffense rates were still below 12 percent over a 6-year followup period for even the most high-risk offenders -- those with high risk ratings on the Static-99R plus high levels of psychopathy and sexual deviance (as measured by phallometric testing). This makes it inappropriate to inflate risk estimates over and above those derived from Static-99R scores alone, the authors caution.

For the remainder of this article: by Karen Franklin, In the News

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