Thursday, September 5, 2013
By Karen Franklin, Ph.D.
Reported predictive validity higher in studies by an instrument's designers than by independent researchers
The use of actuarial risk assessment instruments to predict violence is becoming more and more central to forensic psychology practice. And clinicians and courts rely on published data to establish that the tools live up to their claims of accurately separating high-risk from low-risk offenders.
But as it turns out, the predictive validity of risk assessment instruments such as the Static-99 and the VRAG depends in part on the researcher's connection to the instrument in question.
Published studies authored by tool designers reported predictive validity findings around two times higher than investigations by independent researchers, according to a systematic meta-analysis that included 30,165 participants in 104 samples from 83 independent studies.
Punish the person who committed the crime, not all who wear the "sex offender" Scarlet Letter!
Cases like this are rare, not the norm, but they make headlines and get pounded into our heads by the media based on fear and false statistics.
We don't punish all murderers for the deeds of one serial killer, or all gang members due to the deeds of another, so why are we doing that against ex-sex offenders? They are not all "monsters" the media continually portrays them all as!
So much for "equal justice for all," and everyone being treated equally and fairly. The "Justice" system has now become the "Injustice" system!
- Opinion: Sex Offense Recidivism Is Rare, Shouldn't Determine Policy
- Petition calls for 'Cherish's Law'
What is sexual abuse? Forcing of undesired sexual behavior by one person upon another. Approximately 25% of women and 15% of men were sexually abused when they were children. Identification, assessment and intervention can moderate the consequences of sexual abuse.
Produced by the Israeli Association of Rape Crisis Centers in cooperation with L. Raphael Geneve as part of a global initiative to increase awareness to child sexual abuse, and to instruct parents and children.
The Topeka Capital-Journal recently published a story about registered sex offenders and compiled a list of such offenders registered in Shawnee County. The newspaper plans to include registered sex offenders in surrounding counties in the coming weeks.
The names and addresses of registered offenders is public information, and it’s good information to have.
However, those who think they and their children are much safer because they have the information should take heed of words from Kyle Smith, deputy director of the Kansas Bureau of Investigation, who was a source for The Capital-Journal’s recent story.
The offender registry is a valuable tool, Smith said, but it can provide a false sense of security if someone is using it to determine who is dangerous.
More than 80 percent of children who are molested are molested by a friend or family member, Smith said, adding, “It’s not just the stranger in the park with a trench coat.”
Some studies indicate sex offender registries are of limited value for determining who poses a danger to adults and children. A Justice Department study conducted in 2002 found that the recidivism rate for sex offenders was about 5.3 percent (one in 19). A compilation of other studies conducted for the years 1983 through 2010 found the recidivism rate for sex offenders was about 9 percent, still the lowest for all categories of crime.
Certainly, there are serial rapists and pedophiles among us but they will never show up on a sex offender registry because, once caught, it’s unlikely they will ever get out of prison.
So the registries have value, but there are other dangers out there, including friends and family members. Most people don’t like to think their friends and family members would prey on children, but in this case, the statistics don’t lie.
Parents should communicate with their children and teach them what is appropriate contact and what isn’t and encourage them to indicate when someone is crossing the line. Children also should be instructed to report inappropriate behavior to their parents or another authority figure.
Parents also should be alert to signs their child is being molested. These include a child being reluctant to visit a specific place or person or not wanting to participate in an activity he or she previously enjoyed, has nightmares or mood swings and seems withdrawn and has unexplained marks on his or her body or mysterious injuries.
People should check the sex offender registry, but they also should take steps to protect themselves from predators who have never been caught and convicted or the person, perhaps a friend or family member, taking that first step across the line.
By JILL LEVENSON (Bio)
The crimes featured in a recent Sun Sentinel investigation were tragic. The newspaper found that in Florida, for every one sex offender who was committed to a sex predator treatment center, “nearly two others were released and then arrested on a sex charge.”
What the article does not highlight is that all of the sex offenders released from Florida prisons – 31,0000 of them -- were screened for civil commitment over 14 years.
That statistic represents a 5 percent recidivism rate over 14 years.
That means for every one re-arrested, about 20 did not go on to commit new sex crimes. In 95 percent of the cases, the screening team, evaluators, courts and program officials made the right call.
While these egregious cases are heinous and unacceptable, they are rare events.
Sexual recidivism rates are lower than commonly believed, and are in fact lower than the overall recidivism rate in the state (PDF). In most cases the Sexually Violent Predator program did, in fact, do a good job of identifying the worst of the worst. The vast majority of sex offenders did not go on to commit any new sex crime, and most are strictly supervised in the community.
We should take a close look at the 95 percent of offenders who did not re-offend, so we can identify and enhance the sex offender management and treatment strategies that are working well.
The legislature is now considering mandatory minimum sentencing in response to the concern about violent re-offending by convicted sex offenders. However, as seen by the recidivism statistics when viewed as part of the bigger picture, mandatory sentences might prove to be a very costly response. The sentencing enhancements will likely be unnecessary in the majority of cases.
An alternative might be a risk assessment by a qualified practitioner prior to sentencing, which would offer valuable information to the judge and state attorney to aid in sentencing decisions.
Every dollar spent on hastily-passed sex offender policies is a dollar not spent on sexual assault victim services, child protection, and social programs designed to aid at-risk families.
The legislature is rightly concerned with another series of recent cases in which children died as a result of abuse or neglect. They should be equally concerned with the children who live through childhood trauma. We need to start thinking about early prevention and fund, not cut, social service programs for children and families. Today's perpetrators are often yesterday's victims.
Jill Levenson, Ph.D., LCSW, is an Associate Professor and Researcher at Lynn University. She is considered a national expert in sex crime policy analysis and has published over 80 articles about the treatment and management of sexual offenders.