Meta-analyses suggest that actuarial risk assessments outperform unguided clinical judgment for prediction of recidivism in criminal offenders. However, there is a lack of direct comparisons of the predictive accuracy of clinical judgment and actuarial risk scales for sexual offenders. We followed up 121 male sex offenders (≥18 years) subjected to pre-trial forensic psychiatric assessment in Denmark in 1978–1992 (mean post-detainment time = 16.4 years) to compare the predictive validity of unstructured clinical judgment of recidivism risk with that of the well-established Static-99 (Hanson and Thornton, Law and Human Behavior 24:119–136, 2000) and an extension of the Static-99, the Static-2002 (Hanson and Thornton, Notes on the development of Static-2002 (Rep. No. 2003–01), Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Canada, Ottawa, Canada, 2003). The predictive accuracy of unguided judgment did not exceed chance for any sexual, severe sexual or any violent (sexual or non-sexual) reconviction (AUCs of the ROC curve = 0.52, 95%CI = 0.41–0.63; 0.50, 95%CI = 0.34–0.67; and 0.57, 95%CI = 0.40–0.73, respectively). In contrast, all three outcomes were predicted significantly better than chance by the Static-99 (AUC = 0.62, 95%CI = 0.52–0.72; 0.72, 95%CI = 0.59–0.84; and 0.71, 95%CI = 0.56–0.86) and the Static-2002 (AUC = 0.67, 95%CI = 0.57–0.77; 0.69, 95%CI = 0.56–0.83; and 0.70, 95%CI = 0.55–0.86). Static-99 outperformed clinical judgment for sexual recidivision (χ2 = 5.11, df = 1, p < .05). The Static-2002 was significantly more accurate for the prediction of any sexual recidivism as compared to unguided clinical judgment but its advantage fell just short of statistical significance for severe sexual recidivism (χ 2 = 3.56, df = 1, p = 0.06). When tested for recidivism within 2 years, none of the three prediction methods yielded results significantly better than chance for any outcome. This direct trial of the unguided clinical method argues against its continued use for risk assessment of sexual offenders.
Sexual Abuse: A Journal of Research and Treatment – Springer Journals
Published: May 30, 2007
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