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Violence risk communication: What do judges and forensic clinicians prefer and understand? [2016]

The purpose of the current study was to investigate judges’ and forensic clinicians’ preferences for categorical risk assessment schemas and their probabilistic equivalents of categorical terms. In addition, this study expanded on the results of Monahan and Silver (2003) by examining forensic clinicians’ and judges’ threshold for when the probability of violence risk to others is sufficient to warrant involuntary civil commitment. A national sample of 192 judges and 127 forensic clinicians completed the study. Results indicate forensic clinicians and judges differ in their preference for categorical schema, with judges preferring a schema that consists of 4 risk levels and forensic clinicians preferring 3. Judges and forensic clinicians did not significantly differ with regard to their probabilistic equivalents of categorical terms. Although the probabilistic equivalents tended to include a broad range of responses, the means of the responses indicate low risk was equivalent to a 1 to 20% chance of future violence, moderate risk to a 21 to 52%, and high risk to 53 to 99%. Finally, the current study found judges and clinicians with civil commitment experience tend to have more conservative decision thresholds for involuntary civil commitment than do clinicians without civil commitment experience. Overall, the results of this study indicate judges and clinicians were able to convert categorical terms to relatively similar probabilistic equivalents but differences exist between the 2 disciplines with regard to their categorical risk schema preferences. The implications and limitations of these findings were discussed.

Evans, S. A., & Salekin, K. L.

Journal of Threat Assessment and Management, 3(3-4), 2016

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