Forensic Risk Assessment

​Forensic risk assessments are designed to predict the potential tendency of future offending to identify needs of intervention (Brown & Singh, 2014).  Risk assessment protocols have been employed to prioritize risk reduction strategies for those in need of interventions (Brown & Singh, 2014).   There are three approaches to evaluating risk assessments:  unstructured clinical judgement (UCJ), actuarial assessment, and structured professional judgement (SPJ) (Brown & Singh, 2014).  The UCJ approach subjectively analyzes clinical skills and experience (Brown & Singh, 2014).  Benefits of the UCJ approach include flexibility in tailoring risk assessments per individual, the incorporation of varieties of case-specific risk and protective static and dynamic factors, and it is inexpensive.  However, UCJ approaches reflect low rates of reliability, predictive validity in addition to its vulnerability to bias, and violence rates are predicted on a chance level rather than scientific formulae (Brown & Singh, 2014).  Actuarial assessments use statistic methodology to assess risk and/or proactive, static, and/or dynamic standards associated with interest in the adverse event (Brown & Singh, 2014).  Items are weighted with the amount of variance for prediction of interest in the adverse event and cross-referenced with recidivism rate estimates (Brown & Singh, 2014).  Benefits of the actuarial approach include rapid assessment, objectivity and transparency through the assessment process, containment of readily available historical information, low bias, and they generate recidivism estimates (Brown & Singh, 2014).  However, the actuarial approach is unable to apply “group-based recidivism rates to” individuals, estimated recidivism rates are unstable when applied to different jurisdictions, and case-specific information is not able to be incorporated to modify recidivism estimates (Brown & Singh, 2014).  The SPJ approaches address the inflexibility of the actuarial approach by assessing risk and/or proactive, static, and/or dynamic factors associated with theory and research suggestions of interest in the adverse event (Brown & Singh, 2014).  Scores provide guidance in making categorical risk judgements in combination with clinical experience implicating the scores as used as part of larger formulation processes (Brown & Singh, 2014).      Benefits of SPJ assessments include they address weaknesses in the actuarial approach, they focus on individuals rather than groups, the ability to consider information not included in item specific tools, and the predictive ability is non-significant to actuarial approaches (Brown & Singh, 2014).  However, the SPJ approach is less objective, introduces decision-making bias, and administration takes longer than the other approaches (Brown & Singh, 2014).  I think that each of the three approaches carries its own benefits and weaknesses.  However, it seems that each approach somehow supports the weaknesses of the others which strengthens the benefit of the assessment in general.  I prefer the term assessment of risk.  When assessing risk you identify risk factors associated with certain behaviors.  Identifying those risk factors allows the professional to predict future behavior.?

Brown, J., & Singh, J. P. (2014, December). Forensic Risk Assessment: A Beginner’s Guide. Archives of Forensic Psychology, 1(1), 49-59. Retrieved from http://www.archivesofforensicpsychology.com/web/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/Brown-and-Singh1.pdf


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