By | February 21, 2013 8 Comments

Predicting recidivism of sex offenders unreliable with current tools

Psychologists attempt to predict whether sexually violent predators (SVPs) will offend again using evaluation instruments such as the Psychopathy Checklist (PCL-R).  According to several studies, the scores among the evaluators using these tools are subjective and can vary considerably. Often times the scores vary so much the results may be considered unreliable.

SVP risk tools show ‘disappointing’ reliability in real-world use from

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Ox Drover

The problem seems to be that two different people looking at the same data about a sex offender, using the PCL-R come up with two entirely different scores,

quote from article:

Faring most poorly was the Psychopathy Checklist (PCL-R). Correlations of scores between two evaluators hired by the same agency were in the low range. On average, psychologists differed by five points on the instrument, which has a score range of of zero to 40. In one case, two evaluators were apart by a whopping 24 points!

There is always “interrater” problems of different interpretations and the DSMs try to make a diagnosis “objective”–i.e. if they have 6 of these 10 symptoms then they have X diagnosis.

Well, since psychological symptoms vary in intensity and can also be faked if your are just asking the patient what they are feeling…sad, mad, glad, etc. though some can be observed and are “objective” rather than “subjective” but most psych evals are done subjectively…in the PCL-R “glib” has to be subjectively decided on–are they glib and superficial? You can’t do a blood test on them.

While I think the PCL-R is a valuable tool in the right hands, it is not that a one hour assessment is going to fill out completely or correctly. Even Bob Hare who developed it says that it takes time in getting to know someone to decide if they are a psychopath or not.

J. Reid Meloy, PhD., wrote a book on risk assessment for violence intended for professionals, but in the end, it all comes down to judgment of the person(s) making the decision.

In protesting my son Patrick’s parole, though he is not a sex offender, the parole board has to decide if he is REALLY a threat to society that should be kept locked up at a cost of $30-40,000 per year during a time of short funding for prisons, or if he can safely be allowed out on parole which would save the state a great deal of money and empty a bed for which there are other men waiting.

What happens if they think it is really safe to let him out and they keep him in prison? Well,, there is money spent that could have been saved.

What happens if they think he is really safe to let him out and they let him out and he doesn’t kill anyone or rob any one? Then they have judged correctly and saved the state money.

What happens if they think he is really safe to let out and he kills me? Well, I die. They get a black mark when my sons raise political hell in the press, and Patrick goes back to prison.

Well, statistically about 60% of the people allowed out on parole are rearrested for another crime within 3 years. So the parole board’s record of release is not all that great, actually, and in fact, at some time ALMOST ALL people, even those with “life sentences,” (except “without possibility of parole,” or those on death row) are eventually allowed out on parole, at least when they are older and their medical care is a problem for the prison system, then they are released so either their families or the State will pay for their care, or they may just be essentially turned out on the street.

According to Dr. Anna Salter, most “first offender” pedophiles have an AVERAGE number of “events” that they have not been caught at, of 300–yep, THREE HUNDRED, and her opinion is that they will always reoffend, maybe not get caught, but actually continue to offend.

Look at that photographer guy, I can’t remember his name, that was a released rapist and living with his mother close to Liane Leedom when she was 15, and he got Liane to allow him to take her photo…a couple of weeks later he killed and raped a young girl. I think he killed two before they caught him. They found photos of about 300 young girls that he had taken years ago and published them and there among them was the young Liane.

To me the risk of releasing these men and women who have committed violent crimes or sex related crimes is too high to take the chance. Unfortunately parole boards are liike judges, you can’t sue them for stupidity.


OxD, I agree with your views on assessments and their interpretations.

I’m curious if the assessments used in data collection were conducted PRIOR to arrest, during parole, or if they were administered after re-arrest on similar charges. Is this an ongoing thing with sex-offenders after they’ve been released? Was the data collected in an attempt to “prevent” recidivism, or what? This wasn’t clarified in the article, unless I missed it, entirely – which is quite possible.

Depending upon whom is administering the assessment, I believe that the clinician’s own vulnerabilities can be sorely manipulated by a spath, regardless of their level of training and experience.

And, the reference to Dr. Leedom’s experiences is a chilling reminder that nobody – not science, not psychics – can predict what another human being is capable of, regardless of data.

Brightest blessings

Ox Drover

Truthy, “the BEST indicator of future behavior is PAST behavior,” and if someone has a PATTERN of behavior then I think it is safe to say it is going to continue. Be it robbery, sex abuse, or murder.

Crime in the US is actually DOWN quite a bit, but I figure it is because we have SO MANY Ps incarcerated (highest rate in the world per capita I think) anyway, 2 million of them INSIDE jails and prisons, so that is at least 500,000 CRIMINAL psychopaths, and another million and a half of men and women who are VERY HIGH in P traits, and criminals, (average PCL-R score 22) so we do have 2 milliion of the worst dudes and dudettes in the country in prison, so that does cut criime while they are inside. Unfortunately it is a swinging door too many times and they go in and out, in and out. Which is why I think the 30 some states with 3-strikes laws should use them more. Actually there are only about 4,000 3-strikes prisoners doing Life W/O Parole.

Most oof the 3 strikes states, double the priison time for felony #2, and then Liife WOP for 3rd felony.


Pistorius made bail. Not surprised. In my opinion, I think he is going to get away with this murder. I think it is going to be one of those cases where there just won’t be enough evidence beyond a shadow of a doubt to convict him. 🙁

Ox Drover

Well, unfortunately the detective had a case for 7 or 9 “attempted” murder charges that were apparently hushed up until the defense attorenys discovered it and it was reinstated…he was drunk and shot into a mini van full of people. So now all his testimony is gonna be bad, BUT they don’t have a jury, they have 3 judges to hear the case so maybe they will still convict. I hope this doesn’t turn out to be another OJ case. But in any case, OJ got away with murder, but afterward he was SHUNNED pretty much by anyone who counted and no Nike contracts…and I think that will be the case here. I think no matter what the verdict is, he is screwed, blued and tattooed as far as his reputation, especially wiith the drugs in the house and needles.



I agree. I think it’s going to be another OJ case where he will get away with it, but you are right…of course he will be done. His life is over. Very sad all around. That beautiful woman is dead and her family has to live with that and Pistorius’s family has to live with what he did, too.

Ox Drover

Well, I think his family is so deep in denial that there is no chance they will ever see HIM as anything but a “poor victim of an accident” he is their GOLDEN CHILD and they must defend that at all costs to keep their denial intact, to let go of that would break them down. Even if he is convicted, they will hold on to the delusion.

Unfortunately, I think as the violence and threats in his past, the drug use, the narcissism, etc and now this murder (and I do believe it was murder) then he seems more and more to be high in P traits even if he would not “qualify” as a 30…and that being said, when you have a “highly achieving” someone like this who becomes a “hero” and rich and famous (OJ and a lot of other sports and music heroes) when they act out in a criminal sense the family just can’t cope with the truth. But it doesn’t ONLY have to be rich and famous, lots of ordinary families me, can’t let go and accept the TRUTH that their criminal child is a psychopath and will never change.

The case of Pistorius underscores, for me, that there is a strong component of WILLFULNESS in psychopathy.

People don’t like to think of will power as being a negative trait. We all like to believe that having a strong will is a good thing. But I don’t see it that way.

Willfulness is a red flag IMO and Pistorius had to he extremely strong willed to go from not having legs to running in the Olympics. I’m glad he is able to walk, but when will is not balanced with humility we get the story of Icarus.

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