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In order to assess the recidivism risk of adults who have been convicted of violent and/or sexual offenses, there exist two kinds of formal assessments: an actuarial risk assessment approach and a nonactuarial approach which is usually called “structured professional judgment” (SPJ). The actuarial risk assessment approach could be further divided into risk assessment instruments which are using predominantly static (i.e., biographical, criminological, and unchangeable) or dynamic (i.e., changeable by, for example, treatment-related processes) risk factors. The SPJ approach is a research-based professional guideline approach to decision-making which provides bench marks for integrating information from a broad range of risk factors associated with recidivism. These instruments are based on considerations of the relevant scientific, professional, and legal literature. The present chapter provides an overview about the main characteristics of both risk assessment approaches as well as about the internationally most commonly used and best validated actuarial and SPJ instruments.
Many forensic psychologists appraise the risk of future violence for criminal offenders or psychiatric patients involved in the criminal justice system. There are several systems to be relied upon for adult forensic cases, and the impetus for this work began more than fifty years ago with the recognition that formulaic, mechanical or actuarial methods are more accurate than informal clinical judgement, experience and intuition, especially for violence. There are two kinds of formal (formulaic, mechanical) assessments for violence risk: actuarial and non-actuarial. The non-empirical methods, typical of such non-actuarial schemes, used in developing the HCR-20 contrast with actuarial techniques. No evidence supports the HCR-20 manual's requirements to render a final three-category judgement based on idiosyncratic factors, include a clinical interview, or regard perceived changes in so-called clinical and risk-management items as indicating altered risk.