When innocent confess: Modern potential jurors’ attitude toward false confessions

When innocent confess: Modern potential jurors’ attitude toward false confessions

Modern potential jurors are more aware of the false confession phenomenon, with media promoting knowledge about interrogation and confession process. This is the bottom line of a recently published article in Psychology, Public Policy, and Law. Below is a summary of the research and findings as well as a translation of this research into practice.

Featured Article | Psychology, Public Policy, and Law | 2018, Vol. 24, No. 3, 430–448

A survey of potential jurors’ perceptions of interrogations and confessions

Authors

Amelia Mindthoff, Florida International University
Jacqueline R. Evans, Florida International University
Gissel Perez, Florida International University
Skye A. Woestehoff, George Mason University
Alma P. Olaguez, University of California, Irvine
J. Zoe Klemfuss, University of California, Irvine
Christopher J. Normile, Central Michigan University
Kyle C. Scherr, Central Michigan University
Marianna E. Carlucci, Loyola University Maryland
Rolando N. Carol, Auburn University at Montgomery
Christian A. Meissner, Iowa State University
Stephen W. Michael, Whitman College
Melissa B. Russano, Roger Williams University
Eric L. Stocks, University of Texas at Tyler
Jonathan P. Vallano, University of Pittsburg at Greensburg
William Douglas Woody, University of Northern Colorado

Abstract

Confessions represent one of the most influential types of evidence, and research has shown that mock jurors often fail to dismiss unreliable confession evidence. However, recent studies suggest that jurors might believe in the false confession phenomenon more than they once did. One possible reason for this could be increased publicity regarding false confession cases. To assess this possibility, we administered an extensive online survey to a sample of potential jurors in the United States from 11 universities and Amazon Mechanical Turk. Perceptions of confession behaviors (as related to others and oneself), Miranda waivers, interrogation methods, dispositional risk factors, and confession admissibility and evidentiary weight were assessed, in addition to respondents’ self-reported crime-media activity and familiarity with disputed confession cases. Respondents’ perceptions were generally consistent with empirical research findings. Respondents believed suspects do not understand their Miranda rights; gauged interrogation tactics usage relatively accurately; viewed psychologically coercive tactics as coercive and more likely to result in false, rather than true, confessions; and recognized that confessions elicited via coercive measures should be inadmissible as evidence in court. However, respondents’ perceptions did not align with research on interrogation length, and respondents did not fully appreciate the risk youth poses in interrogations. Moreover, being familiar with disputed confession cases resulted in more negative views of interrogations and confessions. Overall, potential jurors are seemingly more cognizant of false confessions and the tactics that elicit them than in the past, and evidence suggests that media outlets can be used to promote interrogation and confession knowledge.

Keywords

Interrogation, confession, juror, Miranda rights

Summary of the Research

“Of 125 known false confession cases, 37 cases were presented at trial (note: the remaining cases did not make it to trial for various reasons such as dismissals or guilty pleas). Consequently, 81% of these 37 cases resulted in a wrongful conviction, meaning 30 innocent people were wrongfully sentenced to serve time in prison on the basis of a confession that was factually false. […] In these cases, all of the safeguards intended to either prevent false confessions in the first place or to minimize their influence failed. Past research indicates that false confessions result from various situational and dispositional risk factors, and despite demonstrations of false confessions in case studies, people have historically found it difficult to believe that innocent suspects would confess to crimes they did not commit. However, recent experimental studies indicate that potential jurors’ confession knowledge may have improved. Assessing these possibly shifting beliefs is the primary goal of the present study, in which we gathered current data regarding lay knowledge of a broad range of interrogations and confessions topics and assessed potential predictors of this knowledge (e.g., familiarity with actual disputed confession cases).” (p. 431)

“Even before questioning begins, innocent suspects encounter risk, as they are more likely than guilty suspects to waive their Miranda rights and undergo police questioning. This is presumably due to innocent suspects’ naïve belief that “the power of their own innocence [will] set them free.” Although this innocence-waiving association is generally accepted in the field, jurors’ perceptions of these Miranda-related decisions have not been extensively examined.” (p. 431)

“Once inside the interrogation room, innocent suspects are at risk of falsely confessing because of the accusatory and psychologically coercive nature of the tactics typically used in U.S. interrogations—a risk that jurors might not fully appreciate. Psychologically coercive tactics minimize suspects’ perception of their freedom of choice and can increase the likelihood of false confessions, and such tactics are more likely to be used when investigators believe a suspect is guilty. […] Fortunately, jurors appear in-tune with the coercive nature of such tactics; however, this is undermined by findings that demonstrate that jurors do not believe that these coercive tactics are likely to result in false confessions. Additionally, dispositional risk factors that enhance susceptibility to coercive techniques can further increase the likelihood that suspects falsely confess, with juveniles emerging as a particularly vulnerable population. Other dispositional risk factors include low IQ, cognitive or developmental disabilities, and mental illness. Generally, jurors appear to understand that such risk factors have the propensity to result in false confessions.” (p. 431)

“Once a confession is elicited, interrogators may mold the postadmission narrative into a script that fits their knowledge of the crime and the existing evidence. […] Furthermore, confessions can be legitimized via corroboration inflation, as other evidence (e.g., forensic and eyewitness evidence) can become biased by the presence of a confession, subsequently appearing to substantiate false confessions. Such inflation can influence jurors’ perceptions of confession evidence, as potential jurors have been shown to perceive high-pressure interrogations as less coercive when evidence corroborated the confession. Overall, research on jurors’ perceptions of interrogations and confessions has indicated that confessions are extremely powerful pieces of evidence that increase the likelihood of conviction. […] While potential jurors do acknowledge that false confessions can sometimes occur, they generally agree that a confession is a strong indicator of a person’s guilt and that people who confess are probably guilty. These beliefs may be driven by the fundamental attribution error, whereby people are more likely to attribute others’ behaviors to dispositional factors (e.g., the suspect’s internal feelings of guilt) at the expense of considering the influence of situational factors (e.g., psychologically coercive interrogation methods).” (pp. 431–432)

“Recent studies examining mock jurors’ perceptions of confession evidence have suggested that jurors might be more cognizant of false confessions than they once were. […] Although these findings are promising, they conflict with the majority of past research on mock juror evaluations of confession evidence and with other recent studies. […] Given these conflicts in the literature, potential jurors’ perceptions of interrogations and confessions should be reassessed to clarify their core understanding of interrogation and confession phenomenon, which can help to better interpret experimental findings.” (p. 432)

“Jurors’ knowledge may have improved as a function of exposure to high-profile disputed confession cases. […] [The] media-exposure hypothesis is also consistent with the availability heuristic, which posits that people tend to determine the probability of events based on how easily applicable instances come to mind. Jurors exposed to greater amounts of crime-related media should more readily accept that some interrogation methods are coercive and believe that false confessions exist because cases supporting this belief should more easily come to mind.” (p. 432)

“The present study aimed to examine potential jurors’ perceptions of interrogations and confessions more generally in order to offer researchers and practitioners better (and updated) insight on potential jurors’ core knowledge of these topics. […] Furthermore, the present study sought to enhance the generalizability of results by systematically recruiting a large sample from across the United States. […] In light of recent findings, we expected to see a shift in knowledge as compared with past surveys. Additionally, we hypothesized that those familiar with popularized disputed confession cases would express different views regarding interrogations and confessions (e.g., belief that false confessions occur, that false evidence ploys are coercive), as compared with those unfamiliar with disputed confession cases.” (p. 432)

“A total of 968 participants completed the study. The student subsample (n = 768) was collected from 11 university sites, with at least one site representing each of the U.S. Census Bureau defined regions. […] The community member subsample (n = 200) was collected via Mechanical Turk (MTurk), and participants earned $1 for participation. […] The final student subsample included 648 participants and the final community member subsample included 177 participants, for an overall sample size of 825 participants. […] Participants completed the survey online via Qualtrics. After consenting to participate, respondents were asked questions regarding six topics: general perceptions of confessions (as related to others and oneself), Miranda waivers, perceptions of interrogation methods (including frequency of police use, coerciveness, and relation to true and false confessions), perceptions of the relationship between dispositional risk factors and false confessions, admissibility of confessions and weight of evidence in verdict decisions, and personal characteristics (e.g., crime media engagement and familiarity with disputed confession cases) and demographics.” (pp. 432–433)

“It appears that potential jurors continue to view confessions as relatively strong indicators of guilt; however, potential jurors seem to be more accepting than they once were of claims that suspects might falsely confess. […] Despite these shifts, people still generally believe that they themselves are relatively unlikely to falsely confess. Specifically, respondents indicated that others were more likely to falsely confess in general, and for various specific reasons, than they themselves were. […] The current data do not speak to the basis for this difference, but it could be rooted in the fundamental attribution error and people’s belief that they are immune to the negative effects of coercive interrogations.” (p. 442)

“To the authors’ knowledge, this is the first study to comprehensively examine potential jurors’ perceptions of suspects’ interactions with Miranda waivers. […] In the current study, potential jurors typically believed that suspects do not understand their Miranda rights, were generally aware that police are likely to use manipulative tactics to get suspects to waive their rights, and believed that innocent suspects are generally more likely than guilty suspects to waive their rights. All three ideas have been supported by past research showing that people typically do not have a working understanding of their Miranda rights, police sometimes use manipulative tactics to get suspects to waive their rights, and innocents are more likely than guilty individuals to waive their rights. Yet, it remains unclear what, if any, influence such juror knowledge would have during a trial.” (pp. 442–443)

“Potential jurors believed that confrontation with true evidence is highly likely to be used by police officers during interrogations. […] Additionally, potential jurors accurately gauged the extent to which threat/use of harm and false evidence ploys are used, offering these the lowest and second lowest use ratings, respectively. […] Contemporary potential jurors appear to have a better sense of what methods police actually do use.” (p. 443)

“One concerning finding is how long potential jurors think an interrogation should last. Respondents indicated that interrogations generally last more than eight hours, and that this amount of time is needed in order to elicit a confession. […] it is possible that some jurors might not question a confession’s reliability if it resulted from a prolonged interrogation. This can be detrimental when jurors make decisions about a confession’s reliability, especially considering that over 80% of interrogations in a proven false confession sample exceeded six hours.” (p. 443)

“Participants offered the highest coerciveness ratings for confrontation with false evidence, threat/use of harm, and, critically, evidence bluffs and promises of leniency. […] Our sample of potential jurors perceived the coercive nature of evidence bluffs as not different to that of false evidence confrontation. This perception is consistent with experimental evidence demonstrating that bluffs result in false confessions at a rate that does not differ from explicit false evidence ploys and that mock jurors do not differentiate between these tactics. Additionally, respondents reported the two least coercive methods to be true evidence confrontation and rapport building.” (p. 443)

“Overall, false evidence confrontation, evidence bluffs, rejecting denials, and threat/use of physical harm were perceived as more likely to lead to false confessions than to true confessions, thus hinting at potential jurors’ ability to recognize the detrimental impact of these tactics on confession diagnosticity. […] It is reassuring that potential jurors are able to recognize that such methods create an elevated risk for false confessions. However, these findings do not align with existing research that suggests that jurors might not be able to apply this knowledge when determining a confession’s reliability. […] The “jury’s still out” on whether potential jurors can effectively apply this improved knowledge.” (pp. 443–444)

“Of further interest, the present results revealed that true evidence confrontation and rapport building were deemed to likely elicit true, rather than false, confessions. […] It seems that contemporary jurors harbor beliefs similar to those held by researchers, who recommend that psychologically coercive interrogation tactics be replaced with strategic and information-gathering methods that elicit more comprehensive suspect reports and diagnostic confession evidence. In conclusion, it is possible that potential jurors have the ability to recognize when interrogation methods result in a more reliable or a less reliable confession, and as such, they might be able to make better decisions in light of confession evidence.” (p. 444)

“Respondents generally recognized the risk for false confession created by all nine of the dispositional factors noted. […] Having a mental illness received the highest mean score. […] Being under the influence of alcohol, under the influence of illegal drugs, and under the influence of prescription drugs, all factors that have not been examined in past jury-confession research, were also rated as strong contributors to false confessions. […] Additionally, having a low IQ, a poor memory of the time of the crime, and being sleep deprived were perceived as contributors to false confessions, which is consistent with past research on contributing factors. Adolescence was viewed as one of the lowest contributors to false confessions. This is disconcerting, given that the developmental phase of adolescence renders teens more prone to falsely confessing and that teens are overrepresented in known false confession samples. […] Overall, it seems that a considerable proportion of potential jurors do not recognize the full extent to which age is a risk factor for false confession.” (p. 444)

“Potential jurors in our sample perceived that they would place more weight on DNA and forensic evidence than they would on confession evidence when reaching a verdict. Eyewitness identification evidence similarly outweighed confession evidence, but only in relation to oral and retracted confessions, not written confessions (which itself outweighed oral and retracted confessions). Additionally, when asked whether confessions elicited using different interrogation methods should be admissible in court, potential jurors tended to report that confessions elicited using confrontation with true evidence and rapport building should be admissible. Conversely, they tended to believe that disputed confessions elicited by more overtly coercive methods (i.e., rejection of denials, evidence bluffs, implicit promises of leniency, threats, lies about the evidence, physical harm, lack of Miranda rights reading, and denial of food or an attorney) should not be admissible. As such, respondents seem to partially understand the law, given that confessions elicited using rapport building and confrontation with true evidence are indeed admissible, and confessions elicited from some coercive tactics are likely inadmissible (e.g., physical harm; but others are generally admissible, like those elicited using false evidence ploys). […] These findings are comforting, considering that coerced (and hence, unreliable) confessions can ultimately be presented as evidence at trial, and judges might not be fully aware that false confessions have led to wrongful convictions or of the detrimental effects of coercive interrogation methods on confession reliability. […] Given the present findings, there is hope that potential jurors can recognize the “circumstances” that can result in coerced, and possibly false, confessions, and thus place less weight on those confessions.” (p. 444)

“General crime-related media behavior did not emerge as a strong correlate for interrogation and confession perceptions. However, as hypothesized, we found that potential jurors familiar with a specific disputed/false confession case (e.g., Central Park Five) perceived several tactics as more coercive and more likely to result in false confessions relative to participants not familiar with such a case. Most importantly, compared with nonfamiliar respondents, familiar respondents were more pessimistic about interrogations and confession evidence on a host of measures (e.g., less likely to perceive confessions as indicators of guilt, more likely to believe that innocent people in general might falsely confess). Nonetheless, it is important to remember that these findings are correlational as it is possible that either familiarity informs beliefs or beliefs influence media engagement behaviors (e.g., disputed confession media viewing). Overall, these findings can be explained by the availability heuristic, as potential jurors who know about false confession cases might think that such instances occur more often than do potential jurors who do not, leaving them more open to the possibility that a given confession is false. Thus, knowledge of disputed/false confession cases should be considered as a covariate in the development of future mock juror confession studies, especially since such knowledge appears to be prevalent.” (p. 445)

“Although there were some differences between the subsamples […], the more striking finding was the extent of the agreement between students and community members. […] Findings derived from student samples are largely generalizable to potential juror populations, making participant recruitment easier for future studies, and suggesting that we can be more confident when basing policy decisions on research employing student samples.” (p. 445)

Translating Research into Practice

“Overall, our results suggest that contemporary jurors are aware that Miranda waivers may be uninformed or the result of manipulation. To the extent that triers-of-fact are able to appreciate these factors and weigh them accordingly, policy reform should mandate the video recording of Miranda administrations that could be presented and evaluated in court. However, it is also possible that jurors, despite being aware of reasons innocents would waive their rights (e.g., respondents reported that innocents may waive their rights to appear not guilty to police and triers-of-fact), would draw negative inferences when a suspect remained silent or otherwise invoked his rights. […] Hence, a policy reform to better protect innocent suspects may be to reestablish the initial precedent of the Miranda ruling and not allow any negative inferences to be used against suspects who remain silent and invoke their rights.” (pp. 445–446)

“Regarding false confessions, relative to potential jurors of the past, contemporary potential jurors generally appear to be more accepting of the possibility that false confessions can occur. Furthermore, they seem to possess insight as to the coercive nature of certain interrogation methods and the propensity of these methods to result in less diagnostic confessions. These updated findings should be considered in the development of future research hypotheses, as it seems that researchers should no longer assume that jurors automatically presume guilt in the presence of a confession.” (p. 446)

“In addition, our potential jurors’ belief that coercive tactics can result in false confessions and should not be admissible in court paves the way for possible policy change. […] It is possible that jurors will be less likely to rely on confession evidence that was elicited using such tactics. This phenomenon can be detrimental to police and prosecutors, as it can result in an increase in acquittals. Thus, prosecutorial legal players should consider ceasing the use of especially detrimental tactics (i.e., nondiagnostic interrogation techniques) and instead proactively implement evidence-based interrogation trainings for police officers.” (p. 446)

“Furthermore, our findings have implications for policies regarding juvenile interrogations. As previously mentioned, juveniles are typically treated similarly to adult suspects in interrogative contexts, despite being at greater risk for falsely confessing. This is particularly problematic because, as indicated by the present findings that potential jurors do not fully comprehend the detrimental impact youth can have on confession behaviors, jurors may not be effective safeguards against negative impacts of juvenile false confessions. […] Policies at the interrogation-level should be assessed and modified to help protect juvenile suspects.” (p. 446)

“Last, even though potential jurors are generally more knowledgeable than they once were, their knowledge is still far from perfect. […] Our finding that media regarding false confession cases may influence potential jurors’ perceptions of interrogations and confessions indicates that expert researchers could use media outlets as a way to promote better understanding of how the coercive nature of certain interrogation methods can result in false confessions. It is further important that researchers take on this task in order to ensure that the information presented in such outlets is accurate and empirically supported. By engaging in public awareness, researchers might eventually influence policy regarding coercive interrogation methods and confession admissibility from the bottom-up. Ultimately, this promotion of knowledge may reduce wrongful convictions stemming from false confessions.” (p. 446)

Other Interesting Tidbits for Researchers and Clinicians

“Although we sought to collect data from jury-eligible participants, it is possible that some of our respondents were not jury-eligible. Specifically, our eligibility exclusions were not comprehensive […]. Thus, caution must be exercised when generalizing the present results to all potential jurors, and future research could benefit from collecting data from potential jurors at courthouses who are serving jury duty. Furthermore, generalizability concerns are commonly expressed when data is collected via MTurk. […] Additionally, we only assessed perceptions of general interrogation technique categories rather than individual tactics (e.g., we assessed true evidence confrontation, which can refer to a number of specific tactics such as early evidence disclosure or presenting crime scene photos). […] It would be interesting for future research to assess potential jurors’ perceptions of individual interrogation tactics. Future research could also assess jurors’ perceptions of the cumulative effect of multiple tactics employed at once; for example, jurors’ perceptions of an interrogation during which rapport building is used in conjunction with false evidence presentation.” (p. 445)

“Last, it is important to note that our results do not necessarily attest to jurors’ sensitivity or skepticism regarding confession evidence. […] It is possible that media surrounding disputed confession cases, while increasing prospective jurors’ knowledge of false confessions, simply could be making jurors skeptical of confession evidence. Future research should address this question.” (p. 445)

Join the Discussion

As always, please join the discussion below if you have thoughts or comments to add!

Authored by Kseniya Katsman

Kseniya Katsman is a Master’s student in Forensic Psychology program at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. Her interests include forensic application of dialectical behavior therapy, cultural competence in forensic assessment, and risk assessment, specifically suicide risk. She plans to continue her education and pursue a doctoral degree in clinical psychology.

Caution!: Underdiagnosis of Substance Use Disorders in Forensic Populations Overlooks Criminogenic Treatment Need

Caution!: Underdiagnosis of Substance Use Disorders in Forensic Populations Overlooks Criminogenic Treatment Need

Research suggests that co-occurring substance use disorder (SUD) is prevalent among adults with psychiatric illness. To help determine how widespread co-occurring disorders (CD) are internationally, we compared current clinical diagnoses recorded in the clinical record with clinical evidence gathered during forensic assessments in an inpatient forensic facility in Ontario, Canada. The majority of the sub-sample (61%) met criteria for CD, but only 19% were diagnosed as such. Underdiagnosing SUD has a potential impact on understanding substance use as a criminogenic treatment need in forensic mental health. This is the bottom line of a recently published article in the International Journal of Forensic Mental Health. Below is a summary of the research and findings as well as a translation of this research into practice.

Featured Article | International Journal of Forensic Mental Health | 2018, Vol. 2018, No. 17, 145-153

Co-Occurring Mental Illness and Substance Use Disorders in Canadian Forensic Inpatients: Underdiagnosis and Implications for Treatment Planning

Authors

N. Zoe Hilton, Department of Psychiatry, University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada; Waypoint Research Institute, Waypoint Centre for Mental Health Care, Penetanguishene, Ontario, Canada
Shari A. McKee, Department of Psychiatry, University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada; Waypoint Research Institute, Waypoint Centre for Mental Health Care, Penetanguishene, Ontario, Canada
Elke Ham, Waypoint Research Institute, Waypoint Centre for Mental Health Care, Penetanguishene, Ontario, Canada
Michelle Green, Correctional Services of Canada, Beaver Creek Institution, Gravehurst, Ontario, Canada
Lauren Wright, Waypoint Research Institute, Waypoint Centre for Mental Health Care, Penetanguishene, Ontario, Canada

Abstract

Research suggests that co-occurring substance use disorder (SUD) is prevalent among adults with psychiatric illness. Studies with forensic patients in Australia indicate that co-occurring disorders (CD) are underdiagnosed. To help determine how widespread CD underdiagnosis is in forensic populations internationally, we compared current diagnoses recorded in the clinical record with clinical evidence gathered during forensic assessment meeting DSM-IV criteria for SUD, in a Canadian sample of 638 male forensic inpatients. Among 491 with a major mental illness diagnosis, most (61%) met criteria for CD but only 19% were diagnosed as such. CD was associated with longer hospitalization, and with greater evidence of criminal history, antisociality, and risk of violent recidivism, regardless of how CD was defined. Identifying CD based on documented evidence, though, allowed for slightly greater detection of group differences. Underdiagnosing SUD has a potential impact on understanding substance use as a criminogenic treatment need in forensic mental health.

Keywords

Substance use, forensic inpatients, diagnosis, criminogenic needs

Summary of the Research

“The term co-occurring disorders (CD) is used to describe the presence of both a substance use disorder (SUD) and a psychiatric illness…Having both a mental disorder and SUD is associated with the poorest mental health status and greatest prevalence of unmet mental health needs in the Canadian population. Among psychiatric patients in Canada, the United States, and Australian, substance use increases hospitalization risk, readmission, and is associated with longer length of stay…The goal of the present study was to estimate presence of CD in a sample of forensic inpatients, and to identify the rate at which SUD is formally diagnosed” (p.145).

“In Canada’s forensic services, particularly those providing court-ordered psychiatric assessments, the presence of a major mental illness has important legal implications and may affect whether a person is fit to stand trial or is eligible for a plea of ‘not criminally responsible on account of mental disorder.’ Accurate assessment of other disorders, however, is also important in forensic practice because both recovery from mental illness and the reduction of criminal offending are important goals of intervention…In the present study, we aimed to replicate findings reported by Ogloff et al. (2004, 2015) in a Canadian sample of male forensic inpatients, based on an analysis of clinical documentation rather than conducting a clinical assessment of diagnoses ourselves for the purpose of the study” (p.146).

“We studied the presence of SUD and CD among forensic inpatients according to the current diagnosis recorded in the medical record following formal court-ordered assessment by forensic psychiatrists working with a multidisciplinary clinical team (‘current diagnosis’). Then, as a comparison, we used a standard coding form to quantify the clinical evidence gathered and documented on the medical record during this assessment in order to determine whether the DSM-IV criteria for SUD were met (‘documented evidence’). Previous research reporting that SUD is underdiagnosed among forensic patients…led us to expect that the proportion of patients with a current diagnosis of CD would be significantly lower than the proportion meeting the documented evidence criteria (Hypothesis 1)” (p.146).

“A second goal of this study was to examine the implications for forensic treatment planning, by testing the association of CD with hospital length of stay and with criminal history and recidivism risk…we expected that CD would be positively associated with length of stay in the forensic hospital (Hypothesis 2). Based on previous research indicating that forensic patients with CD had more serious and frequent offending histories than those with mental illness alone, we expected that CD would be positively associated with violent and nonviolent criminal histories, past antisociality, and a history-based measure of criminal recidivism risk (Hypothesis 3). We explored differences in Hypotheses 2 and 3 as a function of whether CD was identified by current diagnosis or documented evidence, to help elucidate the effect of under-diagnosis, if any, on understanding the profile of forensic patients with CD. The present sample was drawn from a longitudinal study of 638 men admitted to a secure forensic assessment program in the Province of Ontario, Canada, from January 2009 to December 2012” (p.146).

“A total of 491 patients had a current diagnosis of a major mental illness (i.e., psychotic or mood disorders) and the reported results were based on this sub-sample. Current diagnosis resulted in only 95 (19%) patients being identified as having both a major mental illness and a co-occurring SUD. Documented evidence resulted in an additional 205 patients being identified, for a total of 300 (61%) with CD by either definition. That is, two-thirds of patients with CD based on the DSM-IV criteria for SUD had not been diagnosed with SUD. The proportion of patients identified with CD was significantly lower using current diagnosis alone…than using documented evidence…consistent with Hypothesis 1” (p. 149).

“The mean length of stay was 152 days (SD = 261). Using either the current diagnosis or documented evidence, patients with CD stayed longer in the forensic hospital. The mean length of stay for patients without a current diagnosis of SUD was 130 days…compared with a current diagnosis of CD, M = 293…Controlling for year of admission, CD was associated with a longer length of stay…consistent with Hypothesis 2. Using documented evidence, the mean length of stay for patients without CD was 122 days…compared with patients with CD, M = 184…Controlling for year of admission, documented evidence of SUD was associated with a longer length of stay…Thus, the hypothesis that CD would be associated with longer stay was supported, whether using current diagnosis or documented evidence of CD” (p.149).

“Most patients in the total sample had prior criminal charges for nonviolent offenses (382, 60%) and half (322, 50%) had prior violent charges…First…we observed no significant differences in CLCH [Cormier-Lang Criminal History] scores between groups defined using the current diagnosis. Using documented evidence, there were differences in CLCH violent history between the CD group…and group without CD…but not for nonviolent criminal history…Second, we observed a significant overall effect of CD on criminality measures when using the current diagnosis…The CD group had higher APD [Antisocial Personality Disorder] total scores…than the no-CD group” (p.149).

Translating Research into Practice

“…Interventions targeting problematic substance use have been shown to reduce risk of reoffending in a CD population, and are associated with a general reduction in criminal behavior. Furthermore, planning for the provision of such treatment services would be aided by accurate estimates of SUD in a patient population. Once SUD is suspected, comprehensive screening and assessment of substance use is recommended, including the type of substances used, as each may have different criminogenic and treatment implications. The present study also supports calls for further development and evaluation of substance use treatment programs for forensic patients, particularly the need for integrated treatment for CD” (p.150).

“Formal diagnosis is often a needed first step to assessing appropriate clinical care, and the present study indicates that forensic assessment professionals are well positioned to make a formal diagnosis of CD, given that the necessary clinical evidence is often already gathered and documented during the assessment process. Therefore, we encourage forensic clinicians to assess substance use, and record diagnoses of SUD, regardless of the instant question before the court (e.g., criminal responsibility, competence to stand trial)…The presence of a SUD diagnosis would highlight the need for treatment and remind all practitioners involved with a patient to target this key criminogenic factor” (p.151).

Other Interesting Tidbits for Researchers and Clinicians

“…Discovering that missed diagnoses of SUD occur even when clinical information indicating the presence of diagnostic criteria is documented on the medical record suggests a systematic problem. That is, underdiagnosis is not entirely attributable to failure to collect adequate information. Instead, it could be related to the way forensic assessment is conducted, whereby practitioners focus on specific disorders in order to answer particular legal questions…The present study raises the possibility that this problem begins with sub-optimal assessment and diagnosis…It is hoped that these diagnoses will inform care planning, result in integrated treatment of mental illness and addiction problems, and lead to improved mental health outcomes and reduced recidivism” (p.152).

Join the Discussion

As always, please join the discussion below if you have thoughts or comments to add!

Authored by Amanda Beltrani

Amanda Beltrani is a current doctoral student at Fairleigh Dickinson University. Her professional interests include forensic assessments, professional decision making, and cognitive biases.

Two Early Intervention Targets for Juvenile Recidivism: Prior Victimization and Substance Use

Two Early Intervention Targets for Juvenile Recidivism: Prior Victimization and Substance Use

Prior victimization significantly predicted whether a youth had future contact with the juvenile or adult criminal justice system, even while considering other factors, such as risk level and youth characteristics. This is the bottom line of a recently published article in Law and Human Behavior. Below is a summary of the research and findings as well as a translation of this research into practice.

Featured Article | Law and Human Behavior | 2018, Vol. 42, No. 6, 558-569

The Impact of Victimization and Mental Health Symptoms on Recidivism for Early System-Involved Juvenile Offenders

Authors

Lindsey E. Wylie, University of Nebraska Omaha
Katrina A. Rufino, University of Houston–Downtown and The Menninger Clinic, Baylor College of Medicine

Abstract

Although research has linked mental health symptoms and prior victimization to recidivism for youth on probation or in detention, little attention has been given to these risk factors for early system-involved youth. We conducted a survival/hazard model to estimate the impact of official records of abuse/neglect, crime victimization, and mental health issues (mood, anxiety, disruptive, and substance use disorders) on recidivism in a sample of 2,792 youth in a large Midwestern diversion program. Results indicated that youth with official records of abuse/neglect, person crime victimization, and property crime victimization were more likely to recidivate sooner than those without these victimization experiences (hazard ratio: 1.37, 1.42, and 1.52, respectively). Findings from the present study also demonstrated that substance use disorder was the only mental health cluster that predicted quicker time to recidivism. As one of the earliest points of entry into the juvenile justice system, diversion programs are in a unique position to address trauma from multiple types of victimization and adapt diversion programming to be responsive to each juvenile’s mental health needs.

Keywords

juvenile recidivism, juvenile diversion, mental health, victimization

Summary of the Research

“In 2016, there were approximately 856,130 juvenile arrests in the United States—many for nonviolent offenses such as larceny–theft, other assaults, drug abuse violations, liquor law violations, vandalism, disorderly conduct, and curfew/loitering. As such, the juvenile justice system is often tasked with how to address youth who commit less serious offenses. One approach is to divert them away from formal juvenile justice system involvement through diversion programs. As the gateway to the juvenile justice system, diversion programs are in a unique position to address the needs of early system-involved youth, including needs related to victimization and mental health symptoms, to reduce future involvement in the juvenile or adult criminal justice system” (p. 558).

“Developmental models of antisocial behavior propose that ‘delinquency is marked by a reliable developmental sequence of experiences,’ in which childhood experiences and social environment put children at risk for social maladjustment and criminal behavior. Specifically, studies find that experiences with victimization, broadly defined as maltreatment, adverse childhood experiences, and general crime victimization, are related to mental health issues and that both victimization and mental health issues are related to juvenile justice involvement. Although the association of victimization and mental health symptoms within juvenile justice populations are well-documented, especially within samples of serious juvenile offenders (e.g., adjudicated or incarcerated), fewer studies have examined these risk factors in a sample of early system-involved youth” (p. 558).

“The present study utilized a sample of early system-involved youth referred to a juvenile diversion program in a large Midwestern city. The purpose of this study was to examine reoffending for youth with reported experiences of victimization, as well as mental health symptoms at the time of diversion intake. Although research has examined the recidivism trajectory of youth at the deeper end of the juvenile justice system, fewer studies have linked victimization and mental health problems to recidivism in a sample of early system-involved youth. Juveniles in the diversion program are typically first-time offenders referred because of minor offenses (e.g., shoplifting, possession of marijuana, status offenses) and assessed as low to moderate risk. The present research contributes
to the larger body of literature by examining whether the association between victimization, mental health problems, and recidivism is similar for early system-involved youth to better inform diversion efforts. Furthermore, the present study extends prior research by including a broader measure of victimization that includes abuse/neglect, sexual assault, property crime, and person crimes that have been reported to law enforcement” (p. 560).

“In both the bivariate comparisons and multivariate model examining time to recidivism, abuse/neglect and person crime victimization were related to both discharge from diversion and recidivism (property offense victimization was only related to recidivism). It is unclear from this data whether victimization in these types of incidents directly relates to difficulties in completing diversion or future reoffending, or whether these rates are an artifact of exposure to system involvement because of victimization. Moreover, the relationship between being the victim of a person or property crime and recidivism, could be the product of delinquent peers or engaging in delinquent lifestyles” (p. 565).

“Our results demonstrate that two thirds of these early system-involved juveniles experience one or more mental health symptoms, with one in five reporting substance use or mood symptoms, one in three reporting anxiety symptoms, and almost half reporting disruptive disorder symptoms. In comparing these proportions to research using the same mental health assessment tool involving juveniles referred to probation and incarcerated juveniles, it appears that early system-involved juveniles may experience similar mental health symptoms as deeper end justice-involved juveniles. In examining the symptom clusters specifically, a higher proportion of our sample endorsed anxiety, mood, and disruptive symptoms, but fewer endorsed substance use symptoms when compared to McReynolds et al. (2010) and Wasserman et al. (2002). Even though this sample differed from these previous studies in specific proportions, across all studies, disruptive disorders are most common among justice-involved youth and mood disorders are least common. As such, there may be few differences between early justice-involved juveniles and later justice involved juveniles in terms of how mental health symptoms are presented” (p. 566).

“Furthermore, the results of the present study show the impact of victimization and mental health on early justice-involved youth. In support of the first hypothesis, juveniles with a history of victimization recidivated sooner than juveniles without a history of victimization. Although previous literature on mental health and recidivism in juvenile justice is mixed, the bivariate analyses and multivariate analyses demonstrated that participants endorsing substance use were more likely to recidivate, which is supported by previous research. The bivariate comparisons also found that those who endorsed the mood disorder symptoms were less likely to recidivate, which differs from studies that have not found a significant relationship between mood disorders and recidivism. One
possibility is the mood cluster acts as a protective factor against recidivism, as juveniles who are feeling depressed are less likely to engage in social activities with peers, where they would be more likely to encounter peer pressure or engage in risky shift behaviors. Furthermore, juveniles who are feeling depressed may be experiencing anhedonia and a lack of energy” (p. 566-567).

“As partially hypothesized, however, once the mental health clusters were included in the multivariate model with demographic variables, the modified risk level score, and victimization, only the substance use mental health cluster predicted time to recidivism, while the mood mental health clusters did not. Although substance use remained a significant predictor of time to recidivism even while controlling for criminogenic risk factors, youth in this sample with mental health issues did exhibit higher criminogenic risk and needs profiles as measured with the YLS/CMI compared with those without mental health issues as previous research has indicated” (p. 567)

Translating Research into Practice

“The results of the current study demonstrate the importance of addressing mental health concerns in juvenile diversion programs, which are one of the first points that youth may touch in the juvenile justice system. While research guided by the Risk-Needs- Responsivity model has generally found that only treating mental health issues is mostly ineffective, research has demonstrated that addressing mental health issues and criminogenic needs can be effective because it adheres to the responsivity principle. The data from this study demonstrate there is a relationship between mental health needs and discharge reason—namely, that youth endorsing substance use and disruptive disorders were less likely to successfully complete the diversion program. Perhaps by specifically attending to these mental health needs, diversion programs can adapt programming for youth with these issues, which may contribute to more positive outcomes such as successful completion of the program and reduced recidivism” (p. 567).

“Juvenile diversion programs embrace the mission of the juvenile justice system, namely that youth can be rehabilitated by linking them to services and that juveniles who commit less serious offenses should not be formally processed through ‘the system.’ This study provides preliminary evidence for some of the risk factors of juveniles most likely to recidivate after being connected to those services and diverted from the system. The three victimization type variables were the strongest predictors of recidivism, even while controlling for risk level and other juvenile characteristics. As such, programs should specifically focus on trauma informed programming that addresses the form of victimization a youth has experienced. Moreover, there is a need for early intervention tailored to the needs of abused, neglected, and victimized youths before they interact with the justice system or when they first enter the juvenile justice system. Early interventions should provide victimized youth with resources to increase resilience and teach positive and proactive coping strategies to minimize the effects that victimization may have on mental health functioning, and subsequent justice involvement” (p. 567-568).

Other Interesting Tidbits for Researchers and Clinicians

“Overall, the most frequent reported type of victimization was person crimes, followed by abuse/neglect and property offenses, with fewer reported incidents of sexual assault. We attempted to compare the rates of victimization in this sample to other studies, however because victimization has been operationalized in multiple ways, comparisons were not meaningful. Future research should compare whether early system-involved youth experience similar rates of victimization using official records and varying types of victimization to adjudicated and/or detained youth” (p. 565).

“Although previous research has consistently found various types of victimization do predict recidivism, better understanding how the types of victimization differ by sample characteristics and how different types of victimization impact recidivism warrants further investigation. The victimization variable was limited by using official law enforcement reports, which was likely an underestimation of victimization incidents in general. Official reports of victimization may also result in an underestimation of certain types of victimization that go unreported to law enforcement (e.g., child abuse/neglect, mutual assault). Future research may consider utilizing a range of victimization measures, including self-report data and official law enforcement records. Finally, although we know that victimization and mental health symptoms are related to recidivism, at least in bivariate comparisons, our data does not explain why these risk factors contribute to recidivism. Researchers may consider specifically testing theoretical frameworks aimed at measuring for the underlying relationships between victimization, mental illness, and reoffense” (p. 567).

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As always, please join the discussion below if you have thoughts or comments to add!

Authored by Amanda Beltrani

Amanda Beltrani is a current doctoral student at Fairleigh Dickinson University. Her professional interests include forensic assessments, professional decision making, and cognitive biases.

Dialectical Behavioral Therapy within the Risk Need Responsivity Framework Reduces Recidivism

Dialectical Behavioral Therapy within the Risk Need Responsivity Framework Reduces Recidivism

Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) exemplifies all the components of Cognitive-Behavioral programs that have been found to reduce recidivism rates. The results of the following literature review offer preliminary evidence that DBT has the potential to reduce recidivism in criminal justice systems if it is applied within a Risk-Need-Responsivity framework. This is the bottom line of a recently published article in the International Journal of Forensic Mental Health. Below is a summary of the research and findings as well as a translation of this research into practice.

Featured Article | International Journal of Forensic Mental Health | 2018, Vol. 17, No. 1, 72-95

A Theoretical and Empirical Review of Dialectical Behavior Therapy Within Forensic Psychiatric and Correctional Settings Worldwide

Authors

Monica F. Tomlinson, Department of Psychology, The University of Western Ontario, London, Ontario Canada

Abstract

Cognitive-behavioral programs which are structured, skills-based, and risk-focused have been found to reduce recidivism rates by up to 55%. Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) exemplifies all of these components, and has been rapidly adapted and implemented in correctional and forensic psychiatric facilities worldwide to reduce recidivism. Regrettably, the widespread implementation of adapted DBT has outpaced the research on its effectiveness for this purpose. Thus, it is currently unclear whether these programs are meeting the rehabilitation needs of these systems. In the following article, a qualitative systematic literature review of all DBT programs within forensic psychiatric and correctional populations using the PRISMA statement guidelines is presented, along with a detailed exploration of how these programs align with best practices in offender rehabilitation, and whether they are effective in reducing recidivism risk. Results offer very preliminary evidence that DBT has the potential to reduce recidivism risk in criminal justice systems if applied within a Risk-Need-Responsivity framework.

Keywords

Criminal justice policy, dialectical behavioral therapy, DBT, offender rehabilitation, systematic literature review

Summary of the Research

“Prototypical programs designed to reduce recidivism in adolescent and adult forensic populations include Reasoning and Rehabilitation, Moral Reconation Therapy, and Aggression Replacement Training. These interventions focus on restructuring cognitions related to antisocial behavior…and introducing morally-based, pro-social ways of thinking and behaving…Meta-analytic findings from methodologically rigorous outcome studies on these (and other similar) interventions indicate that CBT programs are significantly more effective in reducing recidivism when they have additional program elements to standard CBT…and when they include higher numbers of sessions…While there is strong evidence for the continued success of these programs…researchers have also been cognizant of rapid developments in third-wave approaches, such as Acceptance and Commitment Therapy and Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)…DBT already includes several of the additional components of effective CBT programs…and it has shown its effectiveness among difficult-to-treat populations…Personality disorders and substance use disorders are specifically important to treat in forensic settings…as they are significantly associated with recidivism” (p.72-73).

“Although this connection has not been made explicit in the literature, DBT also theoretically aligns with the most prominent and evidence-based risk reduction model in the recidivism literature, the Risk-Need-Responsivity (RNR) model. The RNR model posits that offenders should receive interventions that target the most acute risk factors for crime, that are matched in intensity to the person’s level of risk, and that are responsive to their individual needs…given the significant adaptations made to these programs, a quantitative review of current findings continues to be premature. As a result, a systematic qualitative review of DBT programs within forensic and correctional facilities is needed to determine whether the DBT programs currently in existence are being implemented within best practices for forensic rehabilitation, according to the RNR model, and whether there is any evidence that these programs are successful in reducing criminogenic needs, and subsequently, recidivism” (p.73-74).

“Alterations made to DBT programs within forensic settings included changes to the length of the program, the components of DBT used…and the materials presented during the skills training sessions…Arguably the most significant changes discussed in extant implementations of DBT within forensic settings pertained to the changes in skills training materials…For practical reasons, many implementations changed the wording of the skills manuals to have simpler language…less jargon…more gender neutral language…and more activities that apply to a custodial environment…Many implementations integrated crime review or crime cycle analysis components where participants would specifically discuss the factors that contributed to their past crimes…These additions to the DBT protocol were aimed at understanding what risk factors related to criminal behavior and how to ensure that crime is prevented in the future” (p.82).

“…The emotion regulation and distress tolerance modules also have theoretical support for targeting the criminogenic need, substance use. These modules specifically teach individuals to develop healthy patterns of reducing heightened emotionality and self-soothing, which may lower their propensity to use substances as a way of managing heightened emotions through self-medication…Reducing these needs may increase the chances that individuals will engage in prosocial activities, maintain employment, and seek further education, thus reducing the criminogenic needs lack of academic achievement and antisocial leisure activities…There is some evidence to suggest institutions are being sensitive to the gender-specific criminogenic needs of women in forensic populations, but not necessarily to those of men. The ‘responsivity’ principle of the RNR model asserts that rehabilitative programs should be tailored to the individuals’ learning styles, motivation, strengths, and abilities…The present literature on DBT programs within forensic settings suggests that programs are being adapted to better target criminogenic needs and are generally being delivered within an RNR framework” (p.88-89).

“There is also some evidence that program fidelity was related to reduction in criminogenic needs. Across studies, the programs that adhered more faithfully to the program elements of DBT (e.g., skills training, individual counseling, consultation groups, and between-session coaching) were more effective in reducing criminogenic needs, such as poor impulse control, hostility, anger, emotional dysregulation compared to programs that did not implement all program elements of DBT. Furthermore, the programs that were applied faithfully within an RNR framework…were associated with reductions in institutional defiance and aggression more than programs did not adhere to the RNR framework” (p.90).

“…Overall, the findings from this review provide some indication that adapted implementations of DBT are able to reduce both risk and recidivism, and that programs which most successfully accomplish this goal adhered closely to standard DBT protocol (in terms of their program components) and fit within an RNR network” (p.90).

Translating Research into Practice

“…Thus, information on individuals’ risk level should be used to determine who participates in DBT, and to adapt programs to correspond with the varying needs of individuals with different risk levels…The present review of DBT programs within forensic settings demonstrates that forensic institutions and evaluating their programs. Organizations…have written extensively on their standardized adaptations and preliminary evaluations. Many of these organizations have developed their own DBT manuals to better meet the needs of their populations. These manuals have integrated best practices for offender rehabilitation and incorporated the wealth of research on risk and rehabilitation…These evaluations could also evaluate the theoretical ‘active ingredients’ or ‘mechanisms of change’ in forensic populations” (p.87-90).

“Future research in this area is needed to improve the quality of studies, the size of research samples, and the fidelity with which programs are implemented. Such research can help lead criminal justice policy into an ear of prison reform that has the unprecedented luxury of standing upon empirically supported approaches to offender rehabilitation” (p.91).

Other Interesting Tidbits for Researchers and Clinicians

“While all existing studies on DBT in forensic settings focused on emotional dysregulation, it is important to note that Dr. Thomas Lynch and colleagues have recently proposed a new form of DBT called Radically Open DBT (RO-DBT) for emotional overregulation. These researchers have adapted the biosocial theory to suggest that gene-environment interactions causing heightened threat sensitivity and diminished reward sensitivity lead some individuals to view mistakes and intolerable and unwavering self-control as necessary…RO-DBT focuses on increasing emotional expression, increasing disinhibition, increasing interpersonal experiences (including healthy interpersonal conflict), and decreasing behaviors associated with perfectionism” (p.91)

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As always, please join the discussion below if you have thoughts or comments to add!

Authored by Amber Lin

Amber Lin is a volunteer in Dr. Zapf’s research lab at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. She graduated from New York University in 2013 with a B.A. (honors) and is a second year Masters student at Fairleigh Dickinson University. Her research interests include forensic assessment, competency to stand trial, and the refinement of instruments used to assess the psychological states of criminal defendants.

Guilty after proven innocent: Perceptions of exonerees’ innocence and reintegration support services

Guilty after proven innocent: Perceptions of exonerees’ innocence and reintegration support services

Exonerees who were wrongfully convicted based on false confessions were perceived to be less intelligent, more mentally ill, and more guilty – which impeded willingness to provide reintegration services. This is the bottom line of a recently published article in Psychology, Public Policy, and Law. Below is a summary of the research and findings as well as a translation of this research into practice.

Featured Article | Psychology, Public Policy, and Law | 2018, Vol. 24, No. 3, 341–352

Perpetually stigmatized: False confessions prompt underlying mechanisms that motivate negative perceptions of exonerees

Authors

Kyle C. Scherr, Central Michigan University
Christopher J. Normile, Central Michigan University
Heidi Putney, Central Michigan University

Abstract

Even in the fortunate instances of being exonerated of their wrongful convictions, exonerees often struggle to assimilate back into society. Although research has established that exonerees experience stigma and a general lack of reintegration support, little is known about underlying reasons that motivate such negative perceptions. This research examined whether the evidence and crime associated with a wrongful conviction could initiate a process that alters people’s perceptions of exonerees’ intelligence and mental health status, and, in turn, undermine people’s judgments of exonerees’ guilt and subsequent willingness to support reintegration services. Participants (N = 253) read a news story about an exoneree who was wrongfully convicted of either murder or grand theft auto resulting from either a false confession or eyewitness misidentification. Participants then offered their perceptions of the exoneree’s intelligence and mental health followed by guilt-confidence judgments. Last, participants indicated their willingness to support reintegration services (psychological counseling, career counseling, and job training). Results indicated that wrongful convictions stemming from a false confession caused people to perceive the exoneree as less intelligent and these judgments, in turn, were associated with perceptions that the exoneree suffered from mental health issues which, subsequently, influenced participants’ uncertainty of the exoneree’s innocence. The string of perceptions and judgments consequently undermined people’s willingness to support each of the reintegration services. The observed effects provide empirical evidence for reforms that automatically guarantee support services for exonerees in order to overcome potential biases aimed as those who have been wrongfully convicted.

Keywords

wrongful convictions, exonerees, false confessions, stigma

Summary of the Research

“Although our legal system is experiencing a proliferation of exonerations which has, in part, led to the identification of a variety of factors that are associated with wrongful convictions, these innocents continue to face many obstacles long after release. Yet, very little research has identified underlying mechanisms associated with certain factors that influence people’s willingness to support services that help exonerees effectively reintegrate into society. This research examined whether two evidential factors associated with wrongful convictions—false confessions and mistaken eyewitness identifications—and two crimes varying in their degree of perceived severity—murder and grand theft auto—prompt underlying mechanisms that may exacerbate the difficulties exonerees’ face upon release. Specifically, we tested the ability of these factors to initiate a series of judgments, from intelligence and mental health perceptions through persevering culpability perceptions, to undermine people’s willingness to support reintegration services necessary to help exonerees rematriculate back into society. Research illustrating the stigma exonerees face is offered next followed by a discussion of how the relevant evidence and crimes can impact the obstacles exonerees confront upon release.” (p. 341)

“A growing literature has established that exonerees continue to face substantial difficulties after being factually exonerated of their wrongful conviction. Exonerees are often viewed more negatively than a person with no criminal history and, in some instances, are perceived as negatively as parolees who are actually guilty of criminal wrongdoing. The stigma associated with being wrongfully convicted is also evident in people’s unwillingness to support reintegration reforms—such as psychological counseling, job training, and career counseling—to help exonerees transition back into functioning members of society. For some exonerees, people are especially reluctant to fully believe their innocence which, in turn, motivates a hesitancy to support reintegration services. […] Research is now beginning to identify factors that perpetuate these negative patterns. One factor leading to wrongful convictions—false confessions—has been found to especially influence exonerees’ experiences after release.” (pp. 341–342)

“False confessions are associated with up to 27% of DNA wrongful convictions and ~ 12% of wrongful convictions, in general. A robust body of literature has established myriad situational factors not attributable to the suspect, such as interrogation tactics and length of interrogations, that increase the risk innocent suspects will falsely confess. However, most people do not appreciate the situational pressures that can lead to false confessions and, in fact, believe they themselves would never falsely confess. To make sense of the counterintuitive idea of false confessions, most people make an internal, dispositional attribution to explain why innocent suspects admit to crimes they did not commit. […] Thus, when wrongful convictions stem from false confessions, people may be more likely to believe the person is responsible for the outcome (Why did they confess in the first place?) and may believe that only people who are unintelligent or have mental health issues would falsely confess.” (p. 342)

“Compared to false confessions, mistaken eyewitness identifications are associated with a higher percentage of wrongful conviction cases. Mistaken eyewitness identifications are associated with almost three quarters of DNA exonerations and ~ 30% of wrongful convictions, in general. […] However, although mistaken identifications are associated with a higher percentage of wrongful convictions, research has not found that individuals who are mistakenly identified are perceived in a similar negative manner to those who have falsely confessed. […] Instances of wrongful convictions resulting from false confessions, then, are likely perceived differently than wrongful convictions produced by mistaken eyewitness identifications. […] One aim of this research, therefore, was to examine whether wrongful convictions stemming from a false confession, compared to mistaken eyewitness identification, could alter people’s perceptions of exonerees’ intelligence and facilitate a process leading to subsequent negative perceptions and judgments.” (p. 342)

“People tend to hold a range of negative perceptions about individuals convicted of criminal wrongdoing. These assumptions depend on the criminal behavior and include beliefs that convicted individuals are aggressive, violent, antisocial, manipulative, crazy, insecure, and maladjusted. Because research suggests that most people continue to believe, to varying degrees, that exonerees are still guilty of the original, wrongful conviction, exonerees may often be subjected to a range of stereotypes and beliefs used to characterized guilty offenders. People’s negative perceptions of criminals also appear to extend to convicted perpetrators’ intelligence. […] Research suggests that these intelligence-based perceptions vary depending on the type of criminal wrongdoing. Whereas violent criminals (e.g., murder) are likely to be viewed as unskilled, uneducated, unintelligent, and immature, nonviolent criminals are likely to be perceived as more educated and deemed intelligent and smart. Taking these literatures into consideration suggests that exonerees who have been wrongfully convicted of violent crimes such as murder, and continue to be associated with violent crimes, may be perceived as unintelligent. On the other hand, exonerees who have been wrongfully convicted of nonviolent crimes, such as grand theft auto, seem less likely to be perceived as unintelligent.” (pp. 342–343)

“Based on extant literatures, we tested the perspective that exonerees who have falsely confessed and exonerees wrongfully convicted of a violent crime would be perceived as unintelligent and these intelligence perceptions, in turn, would predict perceptions that these exonerees’ suffered from mental health issues. Furthermore, we tested the possibility that perceiving exonerees’ as suffering from mental health issues could, subsequently, predict a reluctance to fully embrace exonerees’ innocence. Support for taking this sequential approach is offered by research establishing the strong relationship between people’s perceptions associating those with mental health issues as threatening and dangerous—perceived associations that have become stronger despite people reporting better understanding of mental health issues. […] We further tested the potential that any change in people’s perceptions of the exoneree and uncertainty of the exoneree’s innocence could ultimately influence people’s willingness to support reintegration services for the exoneree. Accordingly, this is the first research to test the possibility that intelligence and mental health perceptions can serve as underlying mechanisms that drive people’s distrust of exonerees’ innocence and unwillingness to fully support reintegration services. (p. 343)

“Based on the reviewed literatures, two hypotheses were examined. Although the following hypotheses are framed in terms of support for reintegration services as the outcome, three separate reintegration outcomes—psychological counseling, career counseling, and job training—were used. Each reintegration outcome was tested separately in an attempt to provide a more nuanced understanding of how people’s perceptions and judgments relate to specific reintegration aids. The False Confession hypothesis predicted that wrongful convictions stemming from a false confession, compared to mistaken eyewitness identifications, would result in (a) the exoneree being perceived as less intelligent, which would subsequently undermine people’s (b) perceptions of the exoneree’s mental health, and, in turn, their (c) willingness to fully acknowledge the exoneree’s innocence, and, consequently, (d) their willingness to fully support reintegration services for the exoneree. The Murder hypothesis predicted that wrongful convictions based on murder, compared to grand theft auto, would result in (a) the exoneree being perceived as less intelligent, which would subsequently undermine people’s (b) perceptions of the exoneree’s mental health, and, in turn, their (c) willingness to fully acknowledge the exoneree’s innocence, and, consequently, (d) their willingness to fully support reintegration services for the exoneree.” (p. 343)

Participants: 253 individuals (44.3% women) – mean age of 34.46 years with a standard deviation of 9.87; the majority were White. Participants were recruited using Amazon MTurk website.

“The study used a 2 (evidence: false confession vs. eyewitness misidentification) X 2 (crime: murder vs. grand theft auto) between-subjects design. Participants were randomly assigned to read one of four news stories regarding a wrongfully convicted man named Chris. Some participants read that Chris was wrongfully convicted of murder while others read that Chris was wrongfully convicted of grand theft auto. Whereas some participants were informed that Chris was wrongfully convicted based on a false confession, other participants were informed that Chris was wrongfully convicted based on a mistaken eyewitness identification. Participants’ offered their perceptions of Chris’s intelligence and mental health, guilt judgment and confidence in this judgment, willingness to support three reintegration outcomes (i.e., psychological counseling, career counseling, and job training), and then responded to informational and attention check items and demographic information.” (pp. 343–344)

“The results of this research extend the literatures bearing on wrongful convictions and are the first to illustrate underlying mechanisms that contribute to the obstacles many exonerees continue to face after release. The observed effects indicated that wrongful convictions stemming from false confessions initiate a series of processes that culminate in a decreased willingness to support efforts to help the exoneree reintegrate into society. People who were informed that an exoneree had falsely confessed perceived the exoneree as less intelligent which, in turn, was associated with people’s subsequent perceptions that the exoneree suffered from mental health issues, was not entirely innocent, and was less deserving of psychological and career counseling and job training.” (p.348)

“The observed effects also indicate that people’s perceptions of those they characterize as having mental health issues extend to culpability judgments. One possible reason, as alluded to earlier, stems from people’s perceptions connecting mental health issues with dangerousness, threat, and social distance. People may judge individuals who they perceive to have mental health issues as more culpable in order to justify incarcerating or committing these individuals to mental health units as ways to maintain order and safety. Although only approximately three percent of violent crimes are committed by individuals with a nonsubstance abuse related mental health issue, people continue to perceive mentally ill people as dangerous and violent. People who characterize an exoneree who falsely confessed as suffering from mental health issues may then continue to believe the exoneree is dangerous and violent and may resist believing the exoneree is entirely innocent as a way to maintain social distance and defend continued incapacitation.” (p. 349)

“Exonerees continue to face many obstacles upon release. One factor that can lead to wrongful convictions—false confessions—was found to prompt a process that motivates people to perceive the exoneree as less intelligent, likely suffering from mental health issues, not entirely innocent, and less deserving of reintegration services. These findings contribute to a growing literature establishing the need for, and use of, empirically based policy reforms to help the growing exoneree demographic. Building awareness of the issues leading to wrongful convictions, factors that contribute to exonerees’ struggles after release, and reforms that effectively help them rematriculate into society is imperative going forward.” (p. 350)

Translating Research into Practice

“The results of this study further demonstrate that people have reservations about supporting reintegration services for exonerees, particularly those who have falsely confessed. Perhaps because reforms and legislation have not mirrored the pace of exonerations, many states do not have explicit policies that address providing reintegration services for exonerees. Indeed, only 32 states, Washington, DC, and the federal government have statutes specifically for instances of wrongful conviction […] Policies need to be developed across the US that are supportive and overcome decision makers’ biases in order to beneficially aid all exonerees’ journeys to reintegrate back into their communities and rebuild their lives.” (p. 349)

“Accordingly, policies should be developed that guarantee exonerees access to reintegration services. The idea of providing automatic access to such services is especially important given the biases exonerees who have falsely confessed will face. Automatically providing all exonerees reintegration services circumvents such biases. […] many individuals who are released from prison struggle with mental health issues and exonerees struggle with unique psychological issues related to their wrongful conviction. Precluding certain exonerees (i.e., those who have falsely confessed) from guaranteed access to services constrains their ability to overcome any mental health issues engendered by the wrongful conviction.” (p. 349)

“Guaranteeing access to reintegration services is also critical to reducing the likelihood of future offenses because a fair percentage of exonerees who are released without access to reintegration services (~ 38%) commit at least one crime after release. […] In summary, when exonerees falsely confess and the wrongful conviction is based (fully or partly) on the confession, people remain reluctant to endorse supporting these individuals and some states in the US prevent these individuals from accessing reintegration services. Consequently, these exonerees are not able to obtain needed psychological services and training to become functioning members of society and are at an increased risk of becoming actual offenders.” (p. 349)

“Another straightforward policy recommendation focuses on guaranteeing that exonerees’ records are expunged of the wrongful conviction. Problematically, almost a third of one sample of exonerees found that exonerees’ records were not purged. […] Failures to expunge exonerees’ wrongful convictions provide an official record that people can search and use to defend stigmatizing and discriminating against some exonerees. A failure to expunge their record, due to living in a state that has a contributory provision preventing the false confessor from expungement, corroborates and reinforces the biased perceptions that may undermine professionals’ willingness to provide job training, career advice, and mental health services. […] In order to eschew such barriers and potential problems for exonerees, their wrongful conviction should automatically be expunged upon release regardless of contributory provisions.” (pp. 349–350)

Other Interesting Tidbits for Researchers and Clinicians

“Although the current research extends the literature on wrongful convictions and exonerees, there are some limitations that would be beneficial for future research to address. Being wrongfully convicted of murder did not initiate the series of negative perceptions and beliefs to the magnitude that was expected. Yet, the ability of certain crimes to precipitate negative perceptions and beliefs should be further investigated. It could be the case that certain crimes, regardless of perceived severity, only matter to the extent that they interact with other factors associated with the wrongful conviction.” (p. 350)

“Participants’ continued belief of the exoneree’s guilt was assessed using a combined measure of a binary culpability judgment multiplied by participants’ confidence in the judgment. This approach results in an outcome ranging from completely confident in the exoneree’s guilt (– 9) to completely confident in the exoneree’s innocence (+9). Overall, participants’ guilt-confidence judgments were positive indicating that, on average, people’s judgments trended more innocent than guilty. Nonetheless, this finding shows that people’s judgments were not all at + 9 (i.e., 100% confident in the exoneree’s innocence). This finding is troubling because, despite being informed that the exoneree was factually proven innocent via DNA evidence, participants did not, on average, believe the exoneree was entirely innocent. Furthermore, people were especially unwilling to entirely concede that the exoneree was innocent when he falsely confessed to the criminal wrongdoing. The fact that all participants’ guilt-confidence judgments were not at + 9 is meaningful because of its strong impact on people’s willingness to support necessary and important reintegration services for the exoneree. It would be beneficial for future research to precisely capture what degree people’s culpability beliefs have on people’s behaviors who heavily influence exonerees’ outcomes.” (p. 350)

“This research established some mechanisms that motivate several difficulties exonerees continue to face upon release. Still, many important questions remained unaddressed. One issue not addressed by this research is the ability of other risk factors associated with wrongful convictions (e.g., police and prosecutorial misconduct) to initiate a similar process that perpetuates the difficulties exonerees face. A related issue is the degree to which people are cognizant of their beliefs and judgments and the influence those beliefs and judgments have on exonerees. Identifying the degree to which both conscious and nonconscious beliefs and judgments influence people’s perceptions of, and behaviors toward, exonerees is imperative to developing effective policy reforms to help exonerees.” (p. 350)

Authored by Kseniya Katsman

Kseniya Katsman is a Master’s student in Forensic Psychology program at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. Her interests include forensic application of dialectical behavior therapy, cultural competence in forensic assessment, and risk assessment, specifically suicide risk. She plans to continue her education and pursue a doctoral degree in clinical psychology.

Locally- v. globally-developed actuarial tools and professional judgment in predicting sexual recidivism

Locally- v. globally-developed actuarial tools and professional judgment in predicting sexual recidivism

When assessing risk for sexual recidivism, use of actuarial tools that were developed using relevant local samples—as opposed to professional judgment and global actuarial tools—is recommended. This is the bottom line of a recently published article in Law and Human Behavior. Below is a summary of the research and findings as well as a translation of this research into practice.

Featured Article | Law and Human Behavior | 2018, Vol. 42, No. 3, 269–279

The Home-Field Advantage and the Perils of Professional Judgement: Evaluating the Performance of the Static-99R and the MnSOST-3 in Predicting Sexual Recidivism

Authors

Grant Duwe, Minnesota Department of Corrections, St. Paul, Minnesota
Michael Rocque, Bates College

Abstract

When sex offenders in Minnesota are assigned risk levels prior to their release from prison, correctional staff frequently exercise professional judgment by overriding the presumptive risk level per an offender’s score on the Minnesota Sex Offender Screening Tool – 3 (MnSOST-3), a sexual recidivism risk-assessment instrument. These overrides enabled us to evaluate whether the use of professional judgment resulted in better predictive performance than did reliance on “actuarial” judgment (MnSOST-3). Using multiple metrics, we also compared the performance of a home-grown instrument (the MnSOST-3) with a global assessment (the revised version of the Static-99 [Static-99R]) in predicting sexual recidivism for 650 sex offenders released from Minnesota prisons in 2012. The results showed that use of professional judgment led to a significant degradation in predictive performance. Likewise, the MnSOST-3 outperformed the Static-99R for both sexual recidivism measures (rearrest and reconviction) across most of the performance metrics we used. These results imply that actuarial tools and home-grown tools are preferred relative to those that include professional judgment and those developed on different populations.

Keywords

risk assessment, recidivism, sex offender, MnSOST-3, Static-99R

Summary of the Research

“Meta-analyses have indicated the average recidivism rate for sex offenders tends to be around 13% within 4–5 years, which is lower than estimates made by the public. This does not mean, of course, that sex offenders necessarily represent a low threat to public safety, because sexual offending is often seen as more dangerous and potentially damaging than are other types of criminal acts. Yet, not all sex offenders are created equally, for some are more at risk for sexual recidivism than are others.” (p. 269)

“Because sex offenders do not represent a monolithic class of high-risk offenders but rather vary tremendously with respect to recidivism risk, assessing their sexual recidivism risk is important for guiding treatment strategies and improving public safety. Given that research has demonstrated that clinical judgment does a poor job in predicting recidivism, a number of actuarial risk-assessment tools have been created specifically to classify sex offenders. […] Although risk-assessment tools have long been utilized, the ongoing revisions to the primary tools available suggest they are works in progress. Among the unresolved issues within the sex offender risk-assessment literature, there are two in particular that have received relatively little empirical scrutiny to date. First, even though it is now generally accepted that actuarial instruments outperform clinical judgment in predicting recidivism, the question of whether clinical judgment is a useful supplement to actuarial tools remains open. […] Second, it is unclear whether tools developed and validated specifically for one population are appropriate or as effective for other populations.” (p. 269–270)

“To address these questions, we analyzed sexual recidivism outcomes over a 4-year follow-up period for 650 sex offenders who had been scored on both the Static-99R and the Minnesota Sex Offender Screening Tool–3 prior to their release from Minnesota prisons in 2012. […] Although most of the sex offenders in our sample received a presumptive risk level according to their MnSOST-3 score, MnDOC [Minnesota Department of Corrections] staff can override the MnSOST-3 and assign a different risk level based on their professional judgment. The presence of these overrides enabled us to assess whether the use of professional judgment, in addition to actuarial tools, increases the accuracy of classification decisions. Moreover, because the 650 offenders were each assessed on the Static-99R and the MnSOST-3, we compared the predictive performance of these two instruments to determine whether there is a home-field advantage in sex offender risk assessment. Finally, we carried out a comprehensive assessment of predictive performance by using six different metrics.” (p. 270)

“Research has shown that clinical observations are relatively ineffective in discriminating between those who present higher from lower risk of reoffending. Studies evaluating the performance of actuarial tools and unguided clinical observation have tended to indicate clinical observation degrades predictive ability. […] In analyses of whether professional overrides improve predictive performance, research has also suggested actuarial tools work best without such changes. […] Although actuarial instruments generally outperform clinical judgment, their overall performance in predicting recidivism has varied widely across validation studies. Therefore, the question remains as to whether clinical judgment remains a useful tool for practitioners in the face of uncertainty or when information not considered by actuarial instruments is available. […] Some have suggested that due to the highly political nature of sex offender management, as well as the highly variable nature of the population, some degree of professional judgment is needed. Others, however, have suggested that risk-assessment approaches using actuarial tools often fail to translate to risk reduction. […] Whether some degree of “judgment” is necessary or even practical as a supplement to actuarial tools has not been determined.” (p. 270)

“Prior to their release from prison, sex offenders in Minnesota are assigned risk levels, which, in turn, determine the extent to which the community will be notified. Prisoners subject to predatory offender registration are assigned a risk level prior to their release from prison by an End of Confinement Review Committee (ECRC), which is composed of the prison warden or treatment facility head where the offender is confined, a law enforcement officer, a sex offender treatment professional, a caseworker experienced in supervising sex offenders, and a victim services professional. Following the ECRC meetings, sex offenders are assigned a Level 1 (lower risk), Level 2 (moderate risk), or Level 3 (higher risk). […] Before receiving a risk-level assignment from ECRCs, offenders are assessed for sexual recidivism risk by MnDOC staff from the Risk Assessment/Community Notification (RACN) unit. […] In assigning risk levels, ECRCs consider scores from actuarial risk-assessment tools as well as additional factors that ostensibly increase or decrease the risk of reoffense (e.g., an offender’s stated intention to reoffend following release or a debilitating illness or physical condition). As a result, ECRCs may override the risk level suggested by the risk-assessment tool. […] ECRCs overrode the MnSOST-3’s presumptive risk level in roughly half the cases involving offenders released from prison in 2012.” (p. 270–271)

“Actuarial tools, which draw upon a combination of empirically informed measures to create an overall risk score, can provide both absolute and relative risk assessments of offenders. Relative risk assessment simply provides information concerning whether an individual is more or less likely to reoffend than are others. Absolute risk assessment, on the other hand, provides an estimate of how likely it is that the individual will reoffend within a specific period of time. […] Estimates of absolute recidivism risk, however, are influenced by the base rate observed within the offender sample used to develop an instrument. […] In addition to the base rate, other differences between a tool’s development sample and the population on which the instrument is administered could potentially affect predictive validity. […] [It is imperative] to ensure tools are effective in populations outside of those in which they were developed.” (p. 271)

“One of the earlier actuarial tools developed was the MnSOST, which was updated to the MnSOST-3. […] In 2012, Duwe and Freske (2012) significantly revised the MnSOST–R with their development of the MnSOST-3. The sample used to develop the MnSOST-3 consisted of 2,535 sex offenders released from Minnesota prisons. […] The most popular tool in North America among criminal justice agencies is the Static-99, developed in the 1990s and updated to its Static-99R version. […] Originally developed using data from samples of sex offenders in Canada and the United Kingdom, the Static-99 is a “global” risk-assessment instrument that is the most widely used around the world. […]” (p. 276, 271–272)

“Our overall sample consists of 650 sex offenders released from Minnesota prisons in 2012 who had been scored on both the MnSOST-3 and the Static-99R. […] In comparing professional judgment with actuarial assessments in predicting recidivism, we used a subsample of 441 cases from the overall sample of 650 offenders. […] The predicted outcome in this study is sex offense recidivism, which we measured as a rearrest and reconviction. Consistent with the development of the MnSOST-3, we measured recidivism over a 4-year follow-up period from the date of the offender’s release from prison in 2012. Recidivism data were collected on offenders through December 31, 2016.” (p. 272)

“Among the 650 sex offenders in this study, 26 (4.0%) were rearrested for a new sex offense within 4 years of their release from prison in 2012. Of the 26 who were rearrested, 13 (2.0% of the 650) were reconvicted.” (p. 273)

“This study directly compared the MnSOST-3 and the Static-99R within a sample of Minnesota sex offenders who were scored with each tool. Findings demonstrated that the MnSOST-3 performed better than did the Static-99R on virtually all the metrics we used for both measures of sexual recidivism. Moreover, we examined the impact of professional judgment or clinical override on classification decisions by comparing the performance of presumptive and assigned risk levels in predicting sexual recidivism. If the ECRC overrides, which are professional judgment supplements to the actuarial tool, add incremental predictive validity, this would be evidence of the value of professional judgment. However, our results indicated unequivocally that clinical judgment in the form of overrides decreased predictive performance, which offers additional evidence that empirically based actuarial tools are superior to professional judgment.” (p. 276)

“It is interesting that the literature seems clear that professional judgment performs worse than do actuarial methods irrespective of the background of the professional making the observation or whether that judgment is structured or unstructured. This is true even for clinical judgment used in combination with actuarial tools. Some research has noted that raters are unfamiliar with or do not use base rate information appropriately in assigning risk. Another possibility is that judgment, whether structured or not, necessarily involves a higher degree of subjectivity than do actuarial measures and therefore are poorer in terms of prediction. Finally, it may be the case […] that clinical judgment often utilizes factors that are not related to recidivism.” (p. 276)

Translating Research into Practice

“Our study holds several important implications for research, policy, and practice. […] Given that the MnSOST-3 outperformed the Static-99R for our sample of Minnesota sex offenders, the results suggest local instruments may have a home-field advantage. To be sure, there are differences between the two instruments in terms of the items included and the classification methods used to develop the tools. In fact, to better demonstrate whether local instruments have a home-field advantage over global assessments, future research should attempt to more effectively isolate the effects of using a customized assessment compared to an imported instrument. Still, the evidence presented here suggests there may be value in applying an instrument to the same, or at least similar, population on which it was developed and validated.” (p. 277)

“In our view, home-grown instruments developed and validated within a particular population are the best option when considering tools for that population. Of course, many jurisdictions will not have a validated actuarial tool that was customized specifically for their own offender populations. In that case, universal tools (i.e., those developed using several populations, such as the Static-99 family) may be a good option, although such tools should be developed and validated on samples that are truly universal. Put another way, the population on which an instrument is being used should be very similar to the one on which the assessment was developed and validated. When a global instrument is used, it cannot be assumed the tool will deliver the same performance for a different assessment population. […] To understand whether a particular tool is effective with an agency’s population, one must evaluate the tool’s predictive performance on that population.”

“Our findings provide one more “nail in the coffin” for the value of clinical judgment in making recidivism predictions. Although some evidence exists that certain factors (dynamic ones in particular) may improve tools like the Static-99, the vast majority of empirical research has demonstrated that actuarial tools significantly outperform professional judgment. This does not mean clinical judgment is not important for the purposes of guiding treatment. Rather, when sex offenders are classified for recidivism risk-assessment purposes, actuarial tools should be the preferred method.” (p. 277)

“Given the consistently demonstrated superiority of actuarial assessments in predicting recidivism, we suggest it may be prudent to limit the extent to which professional judgment is used. Reducing the use of clinical judgment may involve restricting not only the types of cases in which overrides would be admissible but also how much an override would be allowed to deviate from an actuarial assessment. […] To develop guidelines that provide greater structure and clarity on when overrides are permissible, future research is needed to examine the conditions under which clinical judgment actually improves classification decisions or, at a minimum, does no worse than do actuarial assessments.” (p. 277)

Other Interesting Tidbits for Researchers and Clinicians

“Existing research on the validation of sex offender risk-assessment tools has often relied a single metric—namely, the AUC. As we noted earlier, the AUC has its strengths, but it also has some weaknesses. We suggest that future validation research begin using alternative measures of predictive discrimination such as Hand’s (2009) H measure and the precision-recall curve. But given that predictive discrimination addresses only one dimension of predictive validity, metrics that assess accuracy and calibration should also be used to provide a more comprehensive evaluation of predictive performance. As this study illustrates, accuracy metrics are informative for imbalanced data sets so long as there are at least some predicted positives in the data set. Moreover, if researchers and practitioners must rely on a single metric, we suggest that either the SAR or SHARP statistics would be preferable because both tap into multiple dimensions of predictive validity.” (p. 277)

“The AUC values for both the Static-99R and MnSOST-3.1 were lower in comparison to what most of the existing research has reported for either instrument. Much of this research, as we indicated earlier, has consisted of assessments that were scored for research purposes. In this study, we used assessments that had been scored by correctional staff for operational purposes, which provide what is arguably a truer test of predictive performance. Compared to field assessments, those administered strictly for the sake of research may yield overly optimistic estimates of predictive performance due to more favorable conditions in which raters are likely to have had more recent, thorough training. To provide a more realistic estimate of how sex offender risk-assessment tools perform in practice, future research should begin relying more on assessments performed by field staff. In addition, the results suggest that caution may be warranted in using an instrument whose predictive performance has yet to be evaluated on real-world assessments” (p. 277)

“Due to several limitations, however, these findings should be regarded as somewhat preliminary. First, because our study was confined to sex offenders from a single jurisdiction, it is unclear the extent to which the findings are generalizable. Second, the sample we used was relatively small (N = 650), and it was limited to releases over one calendar year. Third, similar to the case in prior research, the better findings for the MnSOST-3 may reflect an “allegiance effect” in which its scoring and use by MnDOC staff has been more consistent with its design in comparison to the Static-99R.” (p. 276)

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Authored by Kseniya Katsman

Kseniya Katsman is a Master’s student in Forensic Psychology program at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. Her interests include forensic application of dialectical behavior therapy, cultural competence in forensic assessment, and risk assessment, specifically suicide risk. She plans to continue her education and pursue a doctoral degree in clinical psychology.