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Clinical Versus Actuarial Judgments in Criminal Justice Decisions: Should One Replace the Other?

NCJ Number
Federal Probation Volume: 70 Issue: 2 Dated: September 2006 Pages: 15-18
Stephen D. Gottfredson; Laura J. Moriarty
Date Published
September 2006
4 pages
This article argues for the use of both standardized actuarial assessment tools and clinical judgments to assess the risk of offenders.
Research has repeatedly demonstrated the superiority of actuarial assessment tools over clinical judgments made by corrections or psychiatric practitioners. While some have argued for the sole use of actuarial assessment tools for assessing offender risk, the authors argue that clinical judgments should be used in combination with actuarial assessment tools to produce the best risk assessments of offenders. The authors show how human judgment can add subtleties to the assessment process that actuarial methods cannot pick up on, such as the demeanor of the offender or rare events that have occurred in the offenders’ life. Indeed, recent research on violence risk in a sample of criminal offenders indicated that structured clinical judgments were just as accurate as actuarial assessment tools in predicting the future risk of violence among the offenders. The statistical prediction power of the actuarial assessment tool is put to best use when combined with the structured clinical judgments of professionals, particularly when the two methods are combined in a predetermined formula that has been empirically tested and validated. References