An Update and Expansion on the Role of the Violence Risk Appraisal Guide and Historical Clinical Risk Management-20 in United States Case Law
Behavioral Sciences & the Law, Vol. 36, Issue 5 (September/October 2018), pp. 517-531
Posted: 4 Jun 2020
Date Written: 2018
An individual's risk for future violent behavior may be considered in various legal contexts, including civil commitment, criminal sentencing, or suitability for parole. Among the assessment tools forensic evaluators use to assess violence risk are the Violence Risk Appraisal Guide (VRAG; Quinsey, Harris, Rice, & Cormier, 1998) and the Historical Clinical Risk Managment‐20 (HCR‐20)/Historical Clinical Risk Management‐20, Version 3 (HCR‐20V3) (Webster, Douglas, Eaves, & Hart, 1997 and Douglas, Hart, Webster, & Belfrage, 2013, respectively). Previous surveys and case law research suggest that these measures are widely used and perceived to be useful in aiding forensic clinicians. This study provides an update to Vitacco, Erickson, Kurus, and Apple (2012) and examines the use of the HCR‐20 and VRAG in United States case law. A LexisNexis review revealed 134 cases decided between 1 January 2010 and 21 December 2016 that included the HCR‐20, VRAG, or both. Results revealed that these measures are typically introduced by the prosecution to inform opinions regarding general violence risk. In addition, consistent with previous research, these data suggest the introduction of the HCR‐20 and VRAG is rarely challenged and, when challenged, these challenges are rarely successful. However, data suggest that courts and parole boards may focus on specific risk factors (e.g., lack of insight) at the expense of other, more objective factors. Finally, we offer suggestions for clinicians who have transitioned to the newest version of the HCR‐20.
Keywords: Violence Risk Apprasal Guide, parole, sentencing,
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