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About The Author

Demosthenes Lorandos is an attorney, forensic psychologist, lecturer and author.  He is in constant demand across the country for his authoritative and tireless advocacy on behalf of the falsely accused.   In defense of his clients Dr. Lorandos brings to bear his extensive expertise in the science of coerced confessions, shaken baby syndrome, battered women’s syndrome, parental alienation syndrome, recovered memories, false accusations, repeated question effects, interviewer bias, behavioral indicators of abuse and other related subjects.  Dr. Lorandos is a member of the California, Michigan, New York, Tennessee and Washington, D.C. bars, and a member of the bar of the United States Supreme Court.   He is also the co-author of such works as Cross Examining Experts in the Behavioral Sciences, Benchbook in the Behavioral Sciences and The International Handbook of Parental Alienation Syndrome. Dr. Lorandos may be recognizeable from his appearances on The Today Show, The View, Larry King Live and Court TV, and from his extensive online catalog of free legal advice videos.

 
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Rapid Risk Assessment for Sexual Offender Recidivism (RRASOR)
Posted On May 2nd, 2012  By admin    

Hanson has developed an actuarial formula for predicting sexual offender recidivism.[1]  This procedure considers only four factors: (1) number of prior sex offenses, (2) the offender’s current age, (3) the gender of the offender’s victims, and (4) the offender’s familial relationship to the victim.  The RRASOR yields a score ranging from 0 to 5.  The corresponding recidivism rates, over a ten‑year window of opportunity, range from 6.5% to 73.1%.  Hanson clearly acknowledges there are limitations associated with the RRASOR:

“The RRASOR was not intended to provide a comprehensive assessment of all the factors relevant to the prediction of sexual offender recidivism.  Instead, the RRASOR should be used only to screen offenders into relative risk levels.  These risk levels could then be adjusted by the consideration of other relevant information such as deviant sexual preferences and treatment compliance.”[2]

In other words, Hanson acknowledges that the RRASOR is still at a preliminary stage of development; and as a result, it also amounts to an experimental procedure.  Hanson’s recommendations regarding assessment of deviant sexual preferences, and treatment compliance, create their own problems.  In particular, how does a psychologist undertaking a sexual predator evaluation reliably assess “deviant sexual preferences”?  At Falsely-Accused.net we emphasize that the number of psychologists trained to do phallometric assessments is quite limited.  Phallometric assessments record changes in penile tumescence as the subject views slides corresponding to deviant, and non-deviant, sexual scenes.  Too often, then, the determination of deviant sexual preference hinges on clinical judgment.  There are psychologists doing sexual predator evaluations who assume that all previously convicted sexual offenders, as a result of their prior conviction(s), exhibit deviant sexual preferences. At Falsely-Accused.net we believe that assumptions such as these obviously interfere with attempts at discriminating between high‑risk and low‑risk subsets of a previously convicted offender population.

Hanson and Bussiere’s meta‑analysis found that the only examined treatment factor related to recidivism is whether the offender completed a course of treatment.[3]  “Treatment compliance” therefore is a misnomer.  As also reported by Hanson and Bussiere, considerations such as motivation for treatment, length of treatment, denial, and victim empathy are not related to recidivism.  The only treatment factor to be considered is whether the offender completed treatment if given the opportunity to do so.  Consequently, the appropriate term for this issue is “treatment completion.”  The term “treatment compliance” invites psychologists to again rely on their unaided clinical judgment (UCJ) in assessing this issue.  Given the limited resources of many correctional agencies, convicted offenders often request treatment and find it unavailable.  Classifying an offender in these circumstances as failing to complete treatment is obviously ill‑advised.

Janus and Meehl identified gross disparities between the levels of sensitivity and specificity realized by the RRASOR.[4]  Using the maximum cutoff score of 5, they reported the specificity of the RRASOR is a near perfect .97.  Its sensitivity, however, is only .15.  In other words relying on this cutoff score would only identify 15% of recidivists.  The remaining 85% would be mistakenly classified as non‑recidivists.  Janus and Meehl also questioned whether the RRASOR is even applicable to sexual predator hearings.  They reported that the base rate for Hanson’s population of offenders was 41%.  Janus and Meehl indicated that sexual predator evaluations attempt to assess risk for groups in which the base rate of recidivism may be substantially lower. 

The issue of recidivism base rates for previously convicted sexual offenders is controversial to say the least.  Janus and Meehl estimate the base rate of recidivism for this population at between 20% and 45%. At Falsely-Accused.net we teach that it can be argued that a range of this magnitude ultimately leaves us with the conclusion that the recidivism rate for previously convicted sexual offenders remains unknown.  In 1997, Prentky and his colleagues reported data estimating recidivism rates for rapists as high as 39%, and rates for child molesters as high as 52%.[5]  These data, however, were obtained from high‑risk populations.  The rapist group had an average of 3.51 offenses prior to their release, and the child molester group had an average of 4.59 offenses prior to their release.  Citing the data of Prentky and his colleagues, Doren nonetheless claimed “… we can scientifically conclude that a significant set of offenders will likely be dangerous again.”[6]

In the final analysis, the time has come to cease speculative arguments, premised on data obtained from atypical populations, regarding the base rate of recidivism for previously convicted sexual offenders.  The six‑step validity‑reliability study, previously outlined in another section of this blog, would clearly define the recidivism base rate for the population studied.  Rather than debate the relevance of currently available recidivism estimates, based on different populations with varying windows of opportunity, it would be more appropriate to undertake the necessary research to resolve this issue with empirical data.

We at Falsely-Accused.net emphasize that this evaluation of the RRASOR results in rather grim conclusions for those who would rely on it in a sexual predator hearing.  Hanson himself acknowledges that the RRASOR is not a comprehensive method for assessing recidivism risk in cases of previously convicted sexual offenders.  Except for the estimates of Janus and Meehl, there are no other data identifying the (1) levels of sensitivity, (2) levels of specificity, (3) frequencies of false positives and (4) frequencies of false negatives associated with the RRASOR.  The necessary study in accordance with Tesing standard 1.1 has not been done for the RRASOR.  Despite Testing standard 6.1, there is no generally available manual for the RRASOR detailing its proper use.  Regarding Testing standard 7.9, and Ethical standard 2.04 (a), there are no reliability or validity data reported in a peer‑reviewed journal for the RRASOR.  These considerations lead to the conclusion that the RRASOR is also an experimental procedure that cannot support expert testimony in a legal proceeding.

Cross‑examining the RRASOR

1.  Karl Hanson’s RRASOR is an actuarial procedure for predicting sexual offender recidivism ‑‑ Correct?

2.  And this procedure considers only four factors ‑‑ Correct?

3.  First, it considers the number of prior sex offenses ‑‑ Correct?

4.  Secondly, it considers the offender’s current age ‑‑ Correct?

5.  Thirdly, it considers the gender of the offender’s previous victims ‑‑ Correct?

6.  And fourthly, it considers whether the offender’s had a familial relationship with previous victims ‑‑ Correct?

7.  Hanson has made the following statement regarding the RRASOR:

- [ read ] -

“The RRASOR was not intended to provide a comprehensive assessment of all the factors relevant to the prediction of sexual offender recidivism.  Instead, the RRASOR should be used only to screen offenders into relative risk levels.  These risk levels could then be adjusted by the consideration of other relevant information such as deviant sexual preferences and treatment compliance.”

Now my question: In other words, Hanson himself acknowledges that the RRASOR is not a comprehensive method for assessing recidivism risk in cases of previously convicted sexual offenders ‑‑ Correct?

8.  Hanson’s recommendations regarding assessment of deviant sexual preferences, and treatment compliance, create their own problems ‑‑ Correct?

9.  In particular, there is the problem of how does a professional psychologist undertaking a sexual predator evaluation reliably assess “deviant sexual preferences” ‑‑Correct?

10.  Are you trained to do phallometric assessments?

11.  Without training in phallometric assessments, your determination of deviant sexual preference hinges on your clinical judgment ‑‑ Correct? 

12.  And we know that unaided clinical judgment is not generally accepted by your professional community for assessing violence risk ‑‑ Correct?

13.  And Hanson’s reference to “treatment compliance,” in his statement I previously read to you, could be misinterpreted ‑‑ Correct?

14.  Hanson and Bussiere’s (1998) meta‑analysis found that the only examined treatment factor related to recidivism is whether the offender completed a course of treatment ‑‑ Correct?

15.  Judgments regarding “compliance” with treatment, or “effectiveness” of treatment are not relevant when using the RRASOR ‑‑ Correct?

16.  And despite Testing standard 6.1, there is no generally available manual for the RRASOR ‑‑ Correct?

17.  You have not published any valdity data in a peer‑reviewed journal supporting the use of the RRASOR  ‑‑ Correct?

18.  You cannot cite any validity data published in a peer‑reviewed journal supporting the use of the RRASOR  ‑‑ Correct? 

19.  You cannot cite any data, identifying the levels of sensitivity for the RRASOR, published in a peer‑reviewed journal ‑‑ Correct? 

20.  You cannot cite any data, identifying the levels of specificity for the RRASOR, published in a peer‑reviewed journal ‑‑ Correct? 

21.  You cannot cite any data, identifying the frequency of false positive errors associated with the RRASOR, published in a peer‑reviewed journal ‑‑ Correct?

22.  You cannot cite any data, identifying the frequency of false negative errors associated with the RRASOR, published in a peer‑reviewed journal ‑‑ Correct?

23.  Both Ethical standard 2.05 and Testing standard 7.9 obligate you to acknowledge these many limitations related to RRASOR ‑‑ Correct?

24.  And these many limitations undermining the RRASOR ‑ including its falling short of ethical and practice standards ‑ establish that it cannot claim general acceptance from your professional community ‑‑ Correct?


[1].  Hanson, R.K. (1997). The development of a brief actuarial scale for sexual offense recidivism. Ottawa, Ont: Public Works and Government Services of Canada (p. 19).

[2].  Hanson, R.K. & Bussiere, M.T. (1998). Predicting relapse: A meta-analysis of sexual offender recidivism studies. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 66, 348-362.

[3].  Janus, E.S. & Meehl, P.E. (1997). Assessing the legal standard for predictions of dangerousness in sex offender commitment proceedings. Psychology, Public Policy, and Law, 3, 33-64.

[4].  Prentky, R.A., Lee, A.F.S., Knight, R.A., & Cerce, D. (1997). Recidivism rates. among child molesters and rapists: A methodological analysis. Law and Human Behavior, 21, 635-659.

[5].  Doren D.M. (1998). Recidivism base rates, predictions of sex offender recidivism, and the “sexual predator” commitment laws. Behavioral Sciences and the Law, 16, 97-114 (p. 111).

[6].  Epperson, D.L., Kaul, J.D., & Huot, S.J. (1995 October) Predicting risk for, recidivism for incarcerated sex offenders: Updated development on the Sex Offender Screening Tool.(SOST). Poster – session presented to the annual conference of the Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers, New Orleans, LA.

 

 
 
 
 
 
By Gardner, Sauber, and Lorandos, has become the standard reference work for PAS. The International Handbook features clinical, legal, and research perspectives from 32 contributors from eight countries.
 
The International Handbook of
Parental Alienation Syndrome
 
By Terrence W. Campbell and Demosthenes Lorandos, is a must for every family law practitioner. This two-volume practice set provides step-by-step guidance how to refute behavioral scientists.
 
Cross Examining Experts in the
Behavioral Sciences
 
By Lorandos and Campbell, provides immediate access to authoritative information and immediate decision-making tools for judges and attorneys.
 
Benchbook in the Behavioral Sciences