Monday, October 28, 2013

FL - Audit finds low recidivism, critiques reliance on inflated Static-99 risk estimates

Fragile Flower
Fragile Flower
Original Article

10/27/2013

By Karen Franklin, Ph.D.

Dan Montaldi’s words were prophetic.

Speaking to Salon magazine last year, the former director of Florida's civil commitment program for sex offenders called innovative rehabilitation programs "fragile flowers." The backlash from one bad deed that makes the news can bring an otherwise successful enterprise crashing down.

Montaldi was referring to a community reintegration program in Arizona that was derailed by the escape of a single prisoner in 2010.

But he could have been talking about Florida where, just a year after his Salon interview, the highly publicized rape and murder of an 8-year-old girl is sending shock waves through the treatment community. Cherish Perrywinkle was abducted from a Walmart, raped and murdered, allegedly by a registered sex offender who had twice been evaluated and found not to meet criteria for commitment as a sexually violent predator (SVP).

Montaldi resigned amidst a witch hunt climate generated by the killing and a simultaneous investigative series in the Sun Sentinel headlined "Sex Predators Unleashed." His sin was daring to mention the moral dilemma of locking up people because they might commit a crime in the future, when recidivism rates are very low. Republican lawmakers called his statements supportive of "monsters" and said it made their "skin crawl."

Black Swan
Black Swan
Montaldi's comments were contained in an email to colleagues in the Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers, in response to the alarmist newspaper series. He observed that, as a group, sex offenders were "statistically unlikely to reoffend." In other words, Cherish Perrywinkle’s murder was a statistical anomaly (also known as a black swan, or something that is so rare that it is impossible to predict or prevent). He went on to say that in a free society, the civil rights of even "society's most feared and despised members" are an important moral concern. A subscriber to the private listserv apparently leaked the email to the news media.

The Sun Sentinel series had also criticized the decline in the proportion of paroled offenders who were recommended for civil commitment under Montaldi's directorship. "Florida's referral rate is the lowest of 17 states with comparable sex-offender programs and at least three times lower than that of such large states as California, New York and Illinois," the newspaper reported.

Audit finds very low recidivism rates

Sun Sentinel Fear Mongering?
Fear Mongering?
In the wake of the Sun Sentinel investigation, the Florida agency that oversees the Sexually Violent Predator Program has released a comprehensive review of the accuracy of the civil commitment selection process. Since Florida enacted its Sexually Violent Predator (SVP) state in 1999, more than 40,000 paroling sex offenders have been reviewed for possible commitment. A private corporation, GEO Care, LLC, runs the state’s 720-bed civil detention facility in Arcadia for the state's Department of Children and Families.

Three independent auditors -- well known psychologists Chris Carr, Anita Schlank and Karen C. Parker -- reviewed data from both a 2011 state analysis and an internal recidivism study conducted by the SVP program. They also reviewed data on 31,626 referrals obtained by the Sun Sentinel newspaper for its Aug. 18 expose.

All of the data converged upon an inescapable conclusion: Current assessment procedures are systematically overestimating the risk that a paroling offender will commit another sex offense.

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