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Sex Offender Risk Assessment

NCJ Number
Date Published
July 2015
6 pages
Kevin Baldwin
This brief summarizes what is scientifically known about risk assessment for adult sexual offenders and suggests policy implications, knowledge gaps, and unresolved controversies in existing research that require further research.
Risk assessment is the process for determining the likelihood that an offender will recidivate. This is the first step in developing a sex offender management plan that addresses factors related to each offender's recidivism risk. The summary of research findings on risk assessment is divided into discussions of methods for assessing sex offender risk; static risk assessment factors and instruments (measurable behavioral histories); dynamic risk assessment instruments and factors (fluid and changing factors related to criminal sexual behavior); the use of multiple risk assessment instruments; the communication of risk-assessment results; and research limitations and future needs. The brief concludes that a number of reliable, valid approaches for assessing sex offender risk are now available. Acceptable levels of predictive accuracy for recidivism have been obtained with actuarial risk assessment approaches, approaches that use structured professional judgment, and the combination of items from structured risk schemes. Research has not yet demonstrated which of these approaches is best suited to specific testing circumstances and contexts; however, recent meta analyses suggest that actuarial assessment approaches should be favored over other risk assessment approaches. This brief recommends that decisions about the best approach or instrument to use for risk assessment should be made in the context of the assessment setting, the characteristics of the individual being assessed, and the purpose of the risk assessment. 6 notes and 28 references

Date Created: June 24, 2020