Sexually Violent Predators in the Courtroom: Science on Trial
Psychology, Policy, and Law, 2006
38 Pages Posted: 13 Oct 2006
Adjudication of sexually violent predator commitment laws places demands on science. In the current article, the authors discuss the determination of mental abnormality and its reliance on medical nosological systems. Second, the authors examine the determination of current risk by reviewing three common concerns: (a) mechanistic estimations of risk, (b) mitigation of risk as a function of age, and (c) estimation of contemporaneous (dynamic) risk. The authors focus specifically on determinations of risk posed by the nexus of mental abnormality with prior history of sexually violent acts. Third, the article examines relevant, though sometimes nonstatutory, considerations, namely, the standards and the expectation for the treatment provided in high-security civil commitment programs. Potentially important dynamic or time-varying factors that may mitigate risk, such as offender age and treatment, are considered. Recommendations to promote good science and to avoid bad science are included with respect to determinations of mental abnormality, risk of reoffending, and treatment.
Keywords: sexual violence, sexual predators, actuarial risk assessment, risk, science, forensic psychology
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