Critical Overview of Risk Assessment Tools Designed for Adults
As corrections' researchers such as Paul Gendreau, Tracy Little and Claire Goggin point out in their own work, their risk assessment research is "virtually silent on the prediction of recidivism among female offenders, minority groups ... and some important sample characteristics, such as risk level and the psychological make-up of the subjects studied ... variables such as age, criminal history, companions, family factors, gender, social achievement, and substance abuse are significant and potent predictors of recidivism ... anti-social risk factors in childhood can have far-reaching influence" (587-589).
In discussing the role of actuarial measures for predicting recidivism, Gendreau et. al. assert that the LSI-R may be used for juvenile, Native and women offenders and that Hare's assessment scale should be used to assess "the psychopathic dimension of anti-social personality ... by clinicians who are concerned with predicting violence" (590). All of this, however, flies in the face of the realities in such cases as that of Lisa Neve. Based upon clinicians' assessments of Neve, without any understanding of the context of her life or the manner in which she, individually, experienced that life, the result was an overwhelming assessment that she would likely commit not just serious offences but serious violent offences. Worse still, she was equated to a "male lust murderer."
Although writers such as Kelly Blanchette and Grant Coulson et al. have asserted that the LSI has some applicability to women prisoners, Joan Nuffield, the designer of the SIR Scale has critiqued the application of programs, measurement tools, assessments of risk and need, risk prediction and other institutional assessment approaches to women given that such tools are developed for, based on, and relate to, male populations. Nuffield also maintains that such male based assessment tools "consistently over classify women in security terms ... and place primary emphasis on security and risk rather than need." She also contends that women tend to have many needs and are generally regarded and classified as low risk prisoners. Nuffield further maintains that the use of "women's own knowledge to aid in the development of psychological skills and needs inventory for women" are advisable and challenges that, "it is questionable whether a classification tool developed primarily for risk prediction [for men] would be useful [for women]." She goes on to caution that many such instruments, including the SIR Scale were "developed to predict recidivism in a population of male penitentiary inmates".
Kelly Blanchette, on the other hand, has applied male needs assessment and risk prediction instruments to women and has concluded that they may be, "reliably used with female offenders." In addition, Blanchette and other Correctional Service of Canada researchers have linked women's histories of self-injurious behaviour and suicide attempts to violent recidivism. Indeed, Blanchette has repeatedly articulated that "a history of attempted suicide was the strongest predictor of violent recidivism in a sample of federally-sentenced women ... 50 per cent of the federal female offender population has a history of attempted suicide." She therefore identifies suicide attempts and self-injurious behaviour as criminogenic factors for women prisoners.
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