Monday, January 13, 2014

Putting the Cart Before the Horse: The Forensic Application of the SRA-FV

Original Article

01/12/2014

By Karen Franklin

As the developers of actuarial instruments such as the Static-99R acknowledge that their original norms inflated the risk of re-offense for sex offenders, a brand-new method is cropping up to preserve those inflated risk estimates in sexually violent predator civil commitment trials. The method introduces a new instrument, the “SRA-FV,” in order to bootstrap special “high-risk” norms on the Static-99R. Curious about the scientific support for this novel approach, I asked forensic psychologist and statistics expert Brian Abbott to weigh in.

Guest post by Brian Abbott, PhD*

NEWS FLASH: Results from the first peer-reviewed study about the Structured Risk Assessment: Forensic Version (“SRA-FV”), published in Sexual Abuse: Journal of Research and Treatment (“SAJRT”), demonstrate the instrument is not all that it’s cracked up to be.

For the past three years, the SRA-FV developer has promoted the instrument for clinical and forensic use despite the absence of peer-reviewed, published research supporting it validity, reliability, and generalizability. Accordingly, some clinicians who have attended SRA-FV trainings around the country routinely apply the SRA-FV in sexually violent predator risk assessments and testify about its results in court as if the instrument has been proven to measure what it intends to assess, has known error rates, retains validity when applied to other groups of sexual offenders, and produces trustworthy results.

Illustrating this rush to acceptance most starkly, within just three months of its informal release (February 2011) and with an absence of any peer-reviewed research, the state of California incredibly decided to adopt the SRA-FV as its statewide mandated dynamic risk measure for assessing sexual offenders in the criminal justice system. This decision was rescinded in September 2013, with the SRA-FV replaced with a similar instrument, the Stable-2007.


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