Sexually Violent Predators in the Courtroom: Science on Trial

William Mitchell Legal Studies Research Paper No. 50

Psychology, Policy, and Law, 2006

38 Pages Posted: 13 Oct 2006

See all articles by Robert A. Prentky

Robert A. Prentky

Justice Resource Institute - Research Department

Eric S. Janus

Mitchell Hamline School of Law

Howard Barbaree

University of Toronto - Law & Mental Health Program - Department of Psychiatry; Centre for Addiction & Mental Health - Law & Mental Health Program

Barbara K. Schwartz

Justice Resource Institute

Martin Kafka

Harvard University - Harvard Medical School

Abstract

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

Suggested Citation

Prentky, Robert A. and Janus, Eric S. and Barbaree, Howard and Schwartz, Barbara K. and Kafka, Martin, Sexually Violent Predators in the Courtroom: Science on Trial. William Mitchell Legal Studies Research Paper No. 50, Psychology, Policy, and Law, 2006, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=937010

Robert A. Prentky (Contact Author)

Justice Resource Institute - Research Department ( email )

545 Boylston Street, Suite 700
Boston, MA 02116-3606
United States

Eric S. Janus

Mitchell Hamline School of Law ( email )

875 Summit Ave
St. Paul, MN Minnesota 55105-3076
United States
6126954928 (Phone)
6126954928 (Fax)

Howard Barbaree

University of Toronto - Law & Mental Health Program - Department of Psychiatry ( email )

78 and 84 Queen's Park
Toronto, Ontario M5S 2C5
Canada

Centre for Addiction & Mental Health - Law & Mental Health Program ( email )

1001 Queen Street West (Queen and Ossington)
Toronto, Ontario
Canada

HOME PAGE: http://www.camh.net/About_CAMH/Guide_to_CAMH/Mental_Health_Programs/

Barbara K. Schwartz

Justice Resource Institute ( email )

Boston, MA 02116-3606
United States

Martin Kafka

Harvard University - Harvard Medical School ( email )

25 Shattuck St
Boston, MA 02115
United States

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