Risk Assessment with prisoners

There is a basic distinction between internal assessment schemes, developed by the Prison Service, and external assessment methods developed by academic researchers. The main difference between these approaches is that many of the methods developed by the Prison Service have not been adequately described or explained in research journals. Consequently, whatever their advantages, some have not been subjected to the scrutiny of professional peers.

Whatever their origin, there are three main approaches:
  1. Structured, anchored clinical judgements, or SACJs (eg, SARN, HCR-20, SVR-20, SARA, arguably PCL-R)
  2. So-called “actuarial” assessments (eg, RM 2000, Static-99)
  3. Clinical assessment, including unstructured assessments made by nonclinical professionals, such as probation officers

Each of these is covered in a different section, and some critical comments are made on the most popular assessment methods. For now, it is worth remembering that all risk assessment, no matter how accurate, is only an estimate. We cannot foretell the future, and we cannot predict what situations a person will encounter in real life, and this limits our ability to predict their future behaviour.

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