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An Online Resource Library on Gender-Based Violence.

The Accuracy of Recidivism Risk Assessments for Sexual Offenders: A Meta-Analysis

General Material
Published Date
January, 2009

The risk assessments are classified according to the source of the items (empirical or conceptual) and the method for combining the items into an overall evaluation of risk (professional judgment or actuarial). Based on 577 findings from 79 distinct samples, the actuarial measures designed for specific types of outcome (sexual, violent, or general recidivism) were the best predictors of that specific outcome (i.e., sexual recidivism was best predicted by the measures designed to predict sexual recidivism). The results for evaluations based on structured professional judgment were variable, with average results intermediate between the findings for the actuarial assessments and unstructured professional judgments (which were consistently the least accurate). There were no significant differences in the predictive accuracy of empirically derived actuarial measures and the conceptually derived actuarial measures. These results suggest that it is possible to conduct psychologically informed risk assessments that have the dual advantages of high predictive accuracy and clinically useful understanding of specific cases.