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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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Sexual Offender Risk Appraisal Guide (SORAG)
Posted On May 16th, 2012  By admin    

The SORAG has been developed by Quinsey and his colleagues based on their many years of work in the Ontario correctional system.[1]  The SORAG is a 14‑item actuarial instrument for assessing the recidivism risk of previously convicted sexual offenders. At Falsely-Accused.net we Emphasize that there is little if any empirical support, however, for at least five of the SORAG items: history of alcohol problems, marital status, history of nonviolent offenses, meeting DSM‑III criteria for Personality Disorder, and meeting DSM‑III criteria for schizophrenia (coded as reducing recidivism risk). 

In their massive meta‑analysis, Hanson and Bussiere found no significant correlation between alcohol abuse problems and sexual offense recidivism.  Similarly, neither marital status nor nonviolent offenses correlated significantly with recidivism. Additionally, Hanson and Bussiere found no significant correlation between “any personality disorder” and recidivism.  In direct contrast to the SORAG item regarding schizophrenia, Hanson and Bussiere found that “psychological maladjustment” rated as “severely disordered” did not correlate significantly with recidivism. We at Falsely-Accused.net feel that quite clearly, then, the SORAG relies on some risk factors for which there is little, if any, empirical support.

The SORAG also includes Psychopathy Checklist‑Revised    (PCL‑R) scores in its overall assessment[2].  Though it is more an objective procedure than not, there are elements of clinical judgment involved in using the PCL‑R.  Consequently, appropriate usage of the PCL‑R appears to require specific training.[3] Psychologists who use the SORAG without specific PCL‑R training are at risk for violating Ethical standards 1.04 (a) and 1.04 (b) addressing “Boundaries of Competence:”

“(a) Psychologists provide services, teach, and conduct research only within the boundaries of their competence, based on their education, training, supervised experience, or appropriate professional experience.”

“(b) Psychologists provide services, teach, or conduct research in new areas or involving new techniques only after first undertaking appropriate study, training, supervision, and/or consultation from persons who are competent in those areas or techniques.” ( p. 1600).

Efforts at evaluating the validity and reliability of the PCL‑R have been confined almost entirely to Canadian prison populations[4].  Using the PCL‑R with U.S. minority groups, therefore, is especially problematic.  A 1990 study, for example, found substantial differences between African‑Americans and Anglo‑Americans in: (1) the distribution of psychopathy scores, (2) the relation of psychopathy to measures of impulsiveness, and (3) the congruence of the underlying factor structure of the PCL‑R across these two ethnic groups.[5]  At Falsely-Accused.net we note that consequently, well‑informed opinion regarding the PCL‑R has emphasized: “… we do not believe the existing validity data justify the use of the PCL‑R with minority groups.”[6]  This is a particularly sobering consideration in view of the obligations related to Ethical standard 2.04 (c):

“Psychologists attempt to identify situations in which particular interventions or assessment techniques or norms may not be applicable or may require adjustment in administration or interpretation because of factors such as individuals’ gender, age, race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, disability, language, or socioeconomic status.”

The SORAG also involves potential problems of inter‑rater reliability.  The item “Elementary school maladjustment,” for example is scored in the following manner:

‑1 = “No problems,” 

+2 = “Slight (minor discipline or attendance) or moderate problems,”

+5 = “Severe problems (frequent disruptive behavior and/or attendance or behavior resulting in expulsion or serious suspensions.”[7] 

Distinguishing between “Slight” and “Severe” elementary school maladjustment invites a great deal of subjective opinion.  In particular, at what point do problems escalate from “moderate” requiring “minor discipline,” to “severe” necessitating a “serious suspension”?  More importantly, at Falsely-Accused.net we ask, to what extent would two or more professionals independently evaluating the same offender reach consistent conclusions regarding this item?

The SORAG item related to “History of alcohol problems” further presents problems of inter‑rater reliability.  The criteria for this item state:

“One point is allotted for each of the following: parental alcoholism, teenage alcohol problem, adult alcohol problem, alcohol involved in a prior offense, alcohol involved in the index offense.  0 = ‑1, 1 or 2 = 0, 3 = +1, 4 or 5 = +2.”[8]

These criteria obviously raise questions regarding the extent to which two or more psychologists use them consistently when evaluating the same offender?  Ascertaining whether an offender’s history involves parental alcoholism, a teenage alcohol problem, or an adult alcohol problem can provoke a wide range of subjective opinions.  Similarly, whether or not alcohol was involved in a prior offense, or the index offense, moreover encourages the kind of conjecture that can vary enormously between clinicians.  When considering issues of DSM‑III criteria for personality disorder, it is also necessary to remember that the inter‑rater reliabilities for that diagnostic class fell short of the levels recommended by DSM‑III.[9]  In other words, “Personality Disorders” can be considered an inherently unreliable diagnostic classification per DSM‑III criteria.[10]

The SORAG relies on phallometric assessment to determine “deviant sexual preferences.”  As we at Falsely-Accused.net previously pointed out, however, very few psychologists have been trained to do phallometric assessments.  This consideration then raises the question of how does a psychologist using the SORAG assess deviant sexual preference without the availability of phallometric data?  Relying on UCJ, or other indices of deviant sexual preference, is inconsistent with the standardized procedure for the SORAG.  In other words, deviations from standardized procedure mean that the SORAG no longer qualifies as a standardized instrument.

Quinsey and his colleagues reported recidivism probabilities corresponding to the SORAG for seven‑ and ten‑year windows of opportunity.  They moreover reported percentile scores for the entire range of SORAG raw scores.  Nevertheless, they did not clearly identify the sample characteristics of their offender population.  They specifically neglected to report the size of their population, and other important characteristics such as mean age, mean number of prior sexual offenses, and number of child molesters versus offenders with adult victims.  Without information regarding the SORAG’s normative population, psychologists using it cannot know whether it is applicable to the offender they are evaluating. 

Finally, it is not particularly clear as to what kind of recidivism the SORAG assesses.  The table reporting recidivism probabilities for the SORAG states: “Probability of Violent Recidivism at Two Different Mean Lengths of Opportunity as a Function of Nine Equal‑Sized Sex Offender Risk Appraisal Guide (SORAG) Categories.”[11]  This description suggests that the recidivism risk assessed by the SORAG is general recidivism, or the likelihood of a previously convicted sexual offender committing any kind of violent offense subsequent to release from incarceration.  At Falsely-Accused.netwe note that sexual predator statutes, however, typically call for assessing an offender’s future risk for committing violent acts that are specifically sexual.  If the SORAG assesses general recidivism risk as it appears to do, then it likely is not applicable to sexual predator hearings.

Despite its impressive potential, carefully evaluating the SORAG clearly demonstrates it cannot support expert testimony in  legal proceeding.  The SORAG’s levels of sensitivity and specificity, and its frequencies of false positives and false negatives remain unknown.  There are no data available regarding inter‑rater reliabilities of the SORAG.  Moreover, there is no generally available manual for the SORAG.  Additionally, the SORAG has yet to undergo peer‑review.  Not surprisingly, then, Quinsey and his colleagues indicate: “We are pursuing further testing of the SORAG in our current research.”[12] We at Falsely-Accused.net feel that quite clearly then, there is a compelling need for further testing of the SORAG.  Consequently, it presently amounts to an experimental instrument in need of further development and revision.

Cross‑examining the SORAG

1.  The SORAG is a 14‑item actuarial instrument for assessing the recidivism risk of previously convicted sexual offenders ‑‑ Correct?

2.  “Alcohol abuse problems” is one of the SORAG factors ‑‑ Correct?

3.  In their massive meta‑analysis, however, Hanson and Bussiere found no significant relationship between recidivism and “Alcohol problems” ‑‑ Correct?

4.  “Marital status” is also a SORAG factor ‑‑ Correct?

5.  But in their massive meta‑analysis, Hansons and Bussiere found no significant relationship between recidivism and “marital status” ‑‑ Correct?

6.  “Meeting DSM‑III criteria for diagnosis of a Personality Disorder” is also a SORAG factor ‑‑ Correct?

7.  But in their massive meta‑analysis, Hanson and Bussiere found no significant relationship between recidivism and the diagnosis of a “Personality Disorder” ‑‑ Correct?

8.  “Meeting DSM‑III criteria for a diagnosis of Schizophrenia” is also a SORAG factor ‑‑ Correct?

9.  But in their massive meta‑analysis, Hanson and Bussiere found no significant relationship between recidivism and Apsychological maladjustment” rated as “severely disordered” ‑‑ Correct?

10.  Therefore, 4 of the 14 SORAG factors ‑

- [ read ] -

(1) alcohol abuse problems,

(2) marital status

(3) diagnosis of personality disorder, and

(4) diagnosis of schizophrenia ‑

are not supported by the massive meta‑analysis of Hanson and Bussiere ‑‑ Correct?

11.  The SORAG also includes Psychopathy Checklist‑Revised (PCL‑R) scores in its overall assessment ‑‑ Correct?

12.  Though it is more an objective procedure than not, there are elements of clinical judgment involved in using the PCL‑R ‑‑ Correct?

13.  Consequently, appropriate usage of the PCL‑R requires specific training ‑‑ Correct?

14.  Ethical standards 1.04 (a) and 1.04 (b) ‑ addressing “Boundaries of Competence” ‑ state:

- [ read ] -

“(a) Psychologists provide services, teach, and conduct research only within the boundaries of their competence, based on their education, training, supervised experience, or appropriate professional experience.”

“(b) Psychologists provide services, teach, or conduct research in new areas or involving new techniques only after first undertaking appropriate study, training, supervision, and/or consultation from persons who are competent in those areas or techniques.”

Now my question: You are obligated to comply with these standards ‑‑ Correct?

15.  Professionals who use the SORAG without specific PCL‑R training are at risk for violating Ethical standards 1.04 (a) and 1.04 (b) ‑‑ Correct?

16.  Efforts at evaluating the validity and reliability of the PCL‑R have been confined almost entirely to Canadian prison populations ‑‑ Correct?

17.  Using the PCL‑R with U.S. minority groups, therefore, is especially problematic ‑‑ Correct? 

18.  The Journal of Abnormal Psychology, is a generally recognized peer-reviewed journal in your field  ‑‑ Correct?

19.  And a 1990 study by Kosson and his colleagues published in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology – titled “Evaluating the Construct Validity of Psychopathy in Black and White Inmates: Three Prelimilary Studies” – might be relevant to your opinions in this case‑‑ Correct? 

20.  Kosson and his colleagues found substantial differences between African‑Americans and White‑Americans in:

(1) the distribution of psychopathy scores   ‑‑ Correct?

21.  And in the relation of psychopathy to measures of impulsiveness   ‑‑ Correct?

22.  And in  the congruence of the underlying factor structure of the PCL‑R across these two ethnic groups  ‑‑ Correct?

23.  The journal Clinical Psychology: Science and Practice, is a generally recognized, peer-reviewed journal in your field ‑‑ Correct?

24.  And a 1996 review article by Salekin and his colleagues – titled: “A Review and Meta-Analysis of the Psychopathy Checklist – Revised: Predictive Validity of Dangerousness” might be relevant to your opinions in this case ‑‑ Correct?

25.  Salekin and his colleagues emphasized:

- [ read ] -

“… we do not believe the existing validity data justify the use of the PCL‑R with minority groups.”

Now my question: This is a particularly sobering consideration in view of the obligations related to Ethical standard 2.04 (c) ‑‑ Correct?

26.  The SORAG also involves potential problems of inter‑rater reliability ‑‑ Correct

27.  The item AElementary school maladjustment,” for example is scored in the following manner:

- [ read ] -

‑1 = “No problems,” 

+2 = “Slight (minor discipline or attendance) or moderate problems,”

+5 = “Severe problems (frequent disruptive behavior and/or attendance or behavior resulting in expulsion or serious suspensions”

‑‑ Correct?

28.  Distinguishing between “Slight” and “Severe” elementary school maladjustment invites a great deal of subjective opinion ‑‑ Correct?

29.  In particular, we must ask at what point do problems escalate from “moderate” requiring “minor discipline,” to “severe” necessitating a “serious suspension” ‑‑ Correct? 

30.  More importantly, we must ask to what extent would two or more professionals independently evaluating the same offender reach consistent conclusions regarding this item ‑‑ Correct?

31.  The SORAG item related to “History of alcohol problems” further presents problems of inter‑rater reliability ‑‑ Correct?

32.  The criteria for this item state state:

- [ read ] -

“One point is allotted for each of the following: parental alcoholism, teenage alcohol problem, adult alcohol problem, alcohol involved in a prior offense, alcohol involved in the index offense.  0 = ‑1, 1 or 2 = 0, 3 = +1, 4 or 5 = +2.”

‑‑ Correct?

33.  These criteria obviously raise questions regarding the extent to which two or more professionals can use them consistently when evaluating the same offender ‑‑ Correct?

34.  Ascertaining whether an offender’s history involves parental alcoholism, a teenage alcohol problem, or an adult alcohol problem can provoke a wide range of subjective opinions ‑‑ Correct?

35.  Similarly, whether or not alcohol was involved in a prior offense, or the index offense, moreover encourages the kind of conjecture that can vary enormously between clinicians ‑‑ Correct?

36.  The SORAG relies on phallometric assessment to determine “deviant sexual preferences” ‑‑ Correct?

37.  Have you undergone appropriate training for undertaking phallometric assessments? 

38.  Without appropriate training in phallometric assessment, how does a professional using the SORAG cannot accurately assess deviant sexual preference ‑‑ Correct?

39.  Relying on unaided clinical judgment, or other indices of deviant sexual preference, is inconsistent with the standardized procedure for the SORAG ‑‑ Correct?

40.  In other words, deviations from standardized procedure mean that the SORAG no longer qualifies as a standardized instrument ‑‑ Correct?

41.  Quinsey and his colleagues, who developed the SORAG, reported recidivism probabilities corresponding to seven‑ and ten‑year windows of opportunity ‑‑ Correct?

42.  They moreover reported percentile scores for the entire range of SORAG raw scores ‑‑ Correct?

43.  Nevertheless, Quinsely and his colleagues did not clearly identify the sample characteristics of their offender population ‑‑ Correct? 

44.  They specifically neglected to report the size of their population ‑‑ Correct?

45.  And they neglected to report the mean age of their population ‑‑ Correct?

46.  And they neglected to report the mean number of prior sexual offenses of their population ‑‑ Correct?,

47.  And they neglected to report the number of child molesters versus offenders with adult victims ‑‑ Correct?

48.  Without information regarding the SORAG’s normative population, professionals using it cannot know whether it is applicable to the offender they are evaluating ‑‑ Correct?

49.  Finally, it is not particularly clear as to what kind of recidivism the SORAG assesses ‑‑ Correct?

50.  The table reporting recidivism probabilities for the SORAG states:

- [ read ] -

“Probability of Violent Recidivism at Two Different Mean Lengths of Opportunity as a Function of Nine Equal‑Sized Sex Offender Risk Appraisal Guide (SORAG) Categories.”

‑‑ Correct?

51.  This description suggests that the recidivism risk assessed by the SORAG is general recidivism, or the likelihood of a previously convicted sexual offender committing any kind of violent offense subsequent to release from incarceration ‑‑ Correct? 

52.  The specific statute in this case calls for assessing an offender’s future risk for committing violent acts that are specifically sexual ‑‑ correct? 

53.  If the SORAG assesses general recidivism risk, then it is not applicable to sexual predator hearings ‑‑ Correct?

54.  Despite Testing standard 6.1, there is no generally available manual for the SORAG ‑‑ Correct?

55.  And the unavailability of a manual can compromise the inter‑rater reliability for an instrument such as the SORAG ‑‑ Correct?

56.  You cannot cite any inter‑rater reliability data for the SORAG published in a peer‑reviewed journal ‑‑ Correct?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


[1].  Hare, R.D. (1991). Manual for the Hare Psychopathy Checklist­ Revised.    Toronto, Ont:Multi-Health Systems.

[2].  Wakefield, H. & Underwager, R. (1998, May). Assessing violent recidivism: Issues for forensic psychologists. Paper presented at the 14th Annual Symposium for the American College of Forensic Psychology, San Francisco, CA.

[3].  Salekin, R.T., Rogers, R., & Sewell, K.W. (1996). A review and meta-analysis of the Psychopathy Checklist-Revi.sed: Predictive validity of dangerousness. Clinical Psychology: Science and Practice, 3, 203-215.

[4].  Kosson, D.S., Smith, S.S., & Newman, J.P. (1990). Evaluating the construct validity of psychopathy in black and white male inmates: Three preliminary studies. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 99, 250-259.

[5].  Salekin, R.T., Rogers, R & Sewell, K.W. (1996). A review and meta-analysis of the Psychopathy Checklist-Revised: Predictive validity of dangerousness. Clinical Psychology: Science and Practice, 3, 203-215 (p. 208).

[6].  Quinsey, V.L.,.Harris, G.T., Rice, M.E. & Cormier, C.A. (1998). Violent offenders: Appraising and managing risk. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association (p. 241).

[7].  Quinsey V.L., Harris, G.T., Rice, M.E. & Cormier, C.A. (1998). Violent offenders: Appraising and managing risk. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association (p. 241).

[8].  American Psychiatric Association (1980). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders-Third edition. Washington, DC: Author (p. 470).

[9].  Campbell, T.W. (1999). Challenging the evidentiary reliability of DSM-IV.       American Journal of Forensic Psychology, 17(l), 47-68.

[10].  Quinsey, V.L., Harris, G.T., Rice, M.E. & Cormier, C.A. (1998). Violent offenders: Appraising and managing risk. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association (p. 244).

[11].  Quinsey, V.L., Harris, G.T., Rice, M.E. & Cormier, C.A. (1998). Violent offenders: Appraising and managing risk. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association (p. 157).

[12].  Hanson, R.K. & Thornton, D. (1999). Static-99: Improving actuarial risk assessments for sex offenders. Ottawa, Ont: Public Works and Government Services of Canada.

 

 
 
 
 
 
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