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

Putting the Cart Before the Horse: The Forensic Application of the SRA-FV

January 2014:

As the developers of actuarial instruments such as the Static-99R acknowledge that their original norms inflated the risk of re-offense for sex offenders, a brand-new method is cropping up to preserve those inflated risk estimates in sexually violent predator civil commitment trials. The method introduces a new instrument, the “SRA-FV,” in order to bootstrap special “high-risk” norms on the Static-99R. Curious about the scientific support for this novel approach, I asked forensic psychologist and statistics expert Brian Abbott to weigh in.

Guest post by Brian Abbott, PhD*

NEWS FLASH: Results from the first peer-reviewed study about the Structured Risk Assessment: Forensic Version (“SRA-FV”), published in Sexual Abuse: Journal of Research and Treatment (“SAJRT”), demonstrate the instrument is not all that it’s cracked up to be.

For the past three years, the SRA-FV developer has promoted the instrument for clinical and forensic use despite the absence of peer-reviewed, published research supporting it validity, reliability, and generalizability. Accordingly, some clinicians who have attended SRA-FV trainings around the country routinely apply the SRA-FV in sexually violent predator risk assessments and testify about its results in court as if the instrument has been proven to measure what it intends to assess, has known error rates, retains validity when applied to other groups of sexual offenders, and produces trustworthy results.

Illustrating this rush to acceptance most starkly, within just three months of its informal release (February 2011) and with an absence of any peer-reviewed research, the state of California incredibly decided to adopt the SRA-FV as its statewide mandated dynamic risk measure for assessing sexual offenders in the criminal justice system. This decision was rescinded in September 2013, with the SRA-FV replaced with a similar instrument, the Stable-2007.

The SRA-FV consists of 10 items that purportedly measure “long-term vulnerabilities” associated with sexual recidivism risk. The items are distributed among three risk domains and are assessed using either standardized rating criteria devised by the developer or by scoring certain items on the Psychopathy Checklist-Revised (PCL-R). Scores on the SRA-FV range from zero to six. Some examples of the items from the instrument include: sexual interest in children, lack of emotionally intimate relationships with adults, callousness, and internal grievance thinking. Patients from the Massachusetts Treatment Center in Bridgewater, Massachusetts who were evaluated as sexually dangerous persons between 1959 and 1984 served as members of the SRA-FV construction group (unknown number) and validation sample (N = 418). It was released for use by Dr. David Thornton, a co-developer of the Static-99R, Static-2002R, and SRA-FV and research director at the SVP treatment program in Wisconsin, in December 2010 during training held in Atascadero, California. Since then, Dr. Thornton has held similar trainings around the nation where he asserts that the SRA-FV is valid for predicting sexual recidivism risk, achieves incremental validity over the Static-99R, and can be used to choose among Static-99R reference groups.

A primary focus of the trainings is a novel system in which the total score on the SRA-FV is used to select one Static-99R “reference group” among three available options. The developer describes the statistical modeling underlying this procedure, which he claims increases predictive validity and power over using the Static-99R alone. However, reliability data is not offered to support this claim. In the December 2010 training, several colleagues and I asked for the inter-rater agreement rate but Dr. Thornton refused to provide it. ..Continued.. by Karen Franklin, In the News

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