Human beings have the habit of wanting somebody to be omniscient In powers to predict the future. When you think of a fortuneteller you think of a Gypsy type woman in a dark room with a turbine on her head sitting in front of a crystal ball. We know in our hearts that these people are charlatans, whether they use a crystal ball, tarot cards, numerology, Or our astrological signs.
Why then should we put any more faith into forensic psychologists who disregard the limits of science by overstating the accuracy of risk assessments and inventing pretextual disorders to justify preventive detention? They even claim to have same truth telling powers regarding future dangerousness based on unsubstantiated allegations.
I for one have no faith in the soft science of psychiatry and psychology. There is too high of a margin for error and they tend to error on the side of their own well-being, not that of the people that they’re supposed to be helping. As for the reliability of risk assessment tools, a recent study of the effectiveness of these tools showed none to be of any value.
Effectiveness of risk assessments
Structured Assessment of Violence Risk in Youth (SAVRY) note only effective for you youth offenders who have already committed a violent crime (no Brainier)
Violence Risk Appraisal Guide (VRAG) note seems to be only used for mentally institutionalized persons (again no Brainier)
Spousal Assault Risk Assessment (SARA) associated with spousal assault (again no Brainier)
Historical, Clinical, Risk Management-20 (HCR-20)
Sex Offender Risk Appraisal Guide (SORAG)
Sexual Violence Risk-20 (SVR-20)
Psychopathy Checklist (PCL-R)
Level of Service Inventory (LSI-R)
Tool Accuracy percentage
HCR – 20 63%
SVR – 20 41%
PCL – R 36%
LS I – R 30%
The people claiming the effectiveness of risk assessment tools are members of the same group that in the 1990s were telling everyone how dangerous and how untreatable people involved in sex crimes were. They didn’t know what they were doing back then any more than they do now.
Take a look at the J.J. Peters 10 year follow-up report where the psychiatrist rated the high risk members of a state hospital treatment group and then later their arrest records were looked into. The ones the psychiatrist rated best in their therapy re-offended at 50%, those second best at 69.8%, and those that the psychiatrist rated as doing worst in their therapy re-offended at 35%. These therapist are in control of others lives and in order to get more control they continue to feed the Criminal Justice System and the public misleading information. This type of thinking in anybody else the therapist would call diversion, justification and minimization. One study that they have refused to do is to look into the possibility that their treatment programs are causing PTSD, post traumatic stress disorder, and this is the reason for the higher reoffense rate in people completing Behavior Modification programs than those who have no treatment Most of the treatments are like Clock Work Orange with their procedure verging on torture with their sadistic use of electro shock aversion, foul taste aversion, ammonia nitrate conditioning, and aggressive confrontational conditioning. note that the first three, when used in conjunction with people in confinement have been deemed by the Federal courts are as being a violation of the eighth amendment cruel and unusual punishment (Knecht v Gillman 488 F3d 1136 “any adverse stimuli constitutes cruel and unusual punishment… behavior modification by adverse stimuli is highly questionable technique. In that only a 20 to 50% success is claimed that it is used is really punishment worse than control beatings”)(Green versus Baron 662 federal supplement 1378 . (“When a mental patient is intentionally subjected to harsher conditions in order to deter them from a maintain course of conduct. The fact that it is done in the name of psychiatric treatment does not keep it from being intentional punishment “). And yet treatment providers outside of the prison system and mental hospitals continue to use these practices. even though their clients have been forced into treatment by either court orders or parole and probation.
The widely recognized researcher on psychological evaluation Robyn M. Dawes in his book” House of Cards Psychology and Psychotherapy Built on Myth”, stated “A person who claims that a treatment is effective must demonstrate that it has an effect in comparison to a hypothetical counterfactual, obtained through construction of a randomly constituted control group.” Such randomized experiments are very necessary in evaluating treatments for emotional disorders and one of the best is what is called a “Wait List Control”. This was used in the Florida Department of Health and Rehabilitative study from 1984, the people who had completed treatment re-offended in a sex crime at 13.6% and other crimes at 18.6%. Those who did not complete treatment at 6.5% for sex offense and 12.9% for other crimes, and those that were on the list but did not get into treatment re-offended in sex crimes at 5%, and other crimes at 0%. The more the treatment, the more the criminal activity! On page 20 of the “sex Offenders in Oregon” the statement is made “Most studies nationally reported rates ranging from 27.6% to 41.0% for subsequent offense.” They did not point out that those numbers are only for persons in treatment. The jacks study in 1962 looked into non-treated offenders showed the re-offense rate of 3.7% over 15 years that’s 2/10 of 1% per year , this must be used as the base line set as laid out by Robyn Dawes any treatment program with a reoffence rate higher then 3.7% for a 15 year period must be consider a failure of the program not the individuals in it.
This brings us to the case of Markis Revland, a habitual criminal who faced civil detention after serving time for child pornography possession
U.S. District Judge Bernard A. Friedman systematically analyzed and rejected the evidence as failing to meet the government’s burden of proof. Not only did the government fail to show that Revland had a serious mental disorder that put him at high risk of molesting children if released, it even failed to prove that the convict had engaged in any hands-on child molestation in the past
The court finds that all of the 149 incidents reported by respondent … were the product of his imagination, not actual events.
In addition to his conviction for child pornography, Revland had two prior convictions for indecent exposure. However, the most damning evidence against him was his own admissions, made during sex offender treatment at the federal prison in Butner, North Carolina, that he had committed 149 additional incidents of sexual abuse of children of various ages.
The court stated that Revland was desperate to enroll in Butner’s treatment program in order to escape the infamous federal prison in Leavenworth, Kansas, where he feared for his life after being beaten and raped at knifepoint by fellow prisoners. Once at Butner, he felt compelled to fabricate “a long list of sex offenses,” lest he be deemed uncooperative and returned to Leavenworth.
The offenses that he described in great detail were implausible, in that he was serving a prior, 10-year prison term for cocaine at around the same time that he claimed to be running around molesting children
The court further stated The reported incidents were not only too numerous to believe but also recounted – years afterwards – far too precisely, with respondent providing the age of the victim, the time of day … when each offense occurred, and the location where each incident allegedly occurred…. And yet the government offered no evidence to independently verify that any of these incidents occurred or that any of them – even one – ever resulted in investigation or prosecution.
As a group, Butner offenders have confessed to an unusually high number of undetected sex crimes, leading Scientists to suspect that the widely publicized numbers are unreliable. Critics say treatment providers at the federal institution pressured prisoners to report as many offenses as possible, lest they be accused of not cooperating And thereby removed from the program.
Finally, the judge rejected the claims of two government psychologists that two so-called actuarial instruments, the Static-99R and the MnSOST-R, showed Revland to be at high risk for recidivism.
The Judge said the risk assessments by both Dr. Manuel Gutierrez, a Board of Prisons employee, and contract psychologist Jeffrey Davis were “particularly unreliable in the present case because they both assumed that [Revland] is a pedophile with numerous ‘hands-on’ victims, whereas the court has rejected both of these premises.”
The judge did concede that the convict met the criteria for antisocial personality disorder, but he found that such a diagnosis was irrelevant:
The essence of this disorder is that the patient “fail[s] to conform to social norms with respect to lawful behaviors as indicated by repeatedly performing acts that are grounds for arrest.” Dr. [Jeffrey] Singer testified that the vast majority of prison inmates have this disorder, as they are in prison for breaking the law and failing to conform to social norms. Dr. [Joseph] Plaud testified that there is no documented causal link, in this case or in general, between antisocial personality disorder and sexual dangerousness. The court credits these experts’ opinions.