Risk Assessment Instruments in Repeat Offending: The Usefulness of FOTRES
AbstractResearch in the area of predicting recidivism has produced several well-validated standardized risk assessment instruments. The question arises, which instruments best serve which purposes? The objective of this study was to evaluate and compare several actuarial and dynamic risk assessment instruments as to their predictive accuracy and their usefulness in forensic practice. The sample consisted of 109 violent and sex offenders who had been released from prison in Switzerland between 1994 and 1999, and for whom the Psychopathy Checklist–Revised (PCL-R); Historical, Clinical, Risk Management–20; Level of Service Inventory–Revised; Violence Risk Appraisal Guide (VRAG); and the Swiss assessment instrument FOTRES were scored. Using bivariate logistic regression analyses, all instruments were able to discriminate between recidivists and nonrecidivists. The receiver operating characteristic analyses yielded area under the curve values between 0.70 (VRAG) and 0.84 (PCL-R). Furthermore, it was shown that solely examining AUC values does not suffice to determine usefulness. A comprehensive evaluation of an instrument’s usefulness for forensic practice should also look at qualitative criteria such as area of application, specificity of risk assessed, and inclusion of dynamic items among others.