Scientific, Forensic, and Clinical Consultation
Risk Assessment Expertise
From the fields of clinical medicine to climate change to the criminal justice system—prediction is everywhere. Predicting any health, environmental, or behavioral phenomenon with a high level of accuracy is difficult. Predicting recidivism (defined as a tendency to relapse into a previous condition or mode of behavior; especially relapse into criminal behavior; see the National Statistics on Recidivism for more information) is an area that has tremendous consequences because of the extreme financial and emotional burden criminal behavior places on society. Conversely, risk assessments can result a loss of an individual’s civil liberties and freedoms, therefore with such high stakes it is essential to have a balanced and scientifically informed evaluation of risk.
Regarding the risk assessment of future criminal behavior it is extremely important to be clear about what outcome you want to assess and manage. There are many different types of recidivism because there are many different types of behavior. For example, recidivism is a very broad category and can be broken down further into the following categories: general recidivism/nonviolent crime, violent crime, sexual crime, or sexually violent crime. All are different outcome variables that are assessed with different methods and predicted with varying levels of accuracy. This is one of the reasons why all risk assessments are not created equal. In order to have confidence in your risk assessment it is important to use assessment methods that are comprehensive and evidence based. More specifically, using valid and reliable measures that have been evaluated by peer-reviewed research to inform your risk assessment is paramount. Reliability refers to the extent that a measure produces consistent results; while validity indicates whether a test is actually measures the intended outcome. There are multiple different types of reliability and validity all with different implications for the utility of different measures in risk assessment.
For example, external validity is the degree to which results of an experiment, or risk assessment tool in this case, can be generalized to other contexts. External validity is a construct of considerable importance when using psychological and psychiatric tools to inform forensic decision-making yet one not routinely studied in the legal literature. For example, Monahan (2005) explains that the COVR is valid only when applied to psychiatric patients in acute facilities. He questions the external validity of the COVR when applied to normal offender populations and other groups until empirical research can determine the validity of such application. Despite this admonition, the COVR is routinely used to assess risk of violence in offenders that are not acute psychiatric patients (). By using the assessment tool on a different population than which it was developed for, it reduces the confidence you can have in the result of the assessment.
Legal Relevance of Risk Assessments
The goal of our forensic consultation practice (one of the services that MINDSET offers) is to educate lawyers and judges and help lawyers use respected, peer-reviewed published science to support their legal arguments. More broadly however, we are interested in helping the legal system make better, more informed decisions by incorporating information that research has to offer. Using state-of-the-art risk assessments are an excellent way to provide courts and parole boards information that can help with the difficult decisions they have to make.
Risk and threat assessment involves identifying relevant risk and protective factors that have been found in research to be linked with the outcome in question (e.g. violence, general offending, intimate partner violence, sexual offending etc.) and using this information to estimate that individuals risk of engaging in that outcome. Usually, after the assessment has been done the evaluation will yield a category of risk such as low, moderate, or high. Risk assessment is more than just prediction however; the purpose of risk assessment is ultimately to make recommendations on how to prevent those outcomes though the use of appropriate risk management strategies. This process aligns with the risk needs and responsivity model (Andrews, Bonta, and Hoge, 1990), which has guided the treatment and assessment of offenders for over 20 years.
Risk assessment services
We offer risk assessment services for individual cases as well consultation on broader issues such as how to effectively implement risk assessment practices at the department or state level.
Our consulting experts include local, national, and international experts in the fields of in the risk assessment and treatment of sexual and violent offenders, as well as the prediction of general, violent, and sexually violent recidivism in both juvenile and adult populations. In each of these areas we can offer up-to-date, evidence-based risk assessment batteries (which are a collection of assessments/interviews and varying amounts and depth of collateral information), designed by our experts. Here is a list of the services we can provide:
- Adult Risk/Threat Assessment
- General Offending
- Violent Offending
- Sexual Offending
- Intimate Partner Violence
- Group Based Violence
- Elder Abuse
- Juvenile Risk/Threat Assessment
- General Offending
- Violent Offending
- Sexual Offending
- Treatment/Risk management recommendations
- Expert testimony in court
- Consultation in any of these areas
For more information on how to implement true evidence-based practices and empirically sound risk assessments in your state or individual case email or call (505) 249-7058.
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