• Assessing Risk of Violence in Caucasian and African-American Male Forensic Patients

      Herriott, Brandy Lynn (2013-01-30)
      Violence risk assessment, or the ability to predict the likelihood of a criminal offender’s to commit a violent act in the future, is an essential role of psychologists in the criminal justice system. One of the most widely used violence risk assessment instruments is the Violence Risk Appraisal Guide (VRAG). The Psychopathy Checklist-Revised (PCL-R) is the most widely used measure of psychopathy and is often used as part of violence risk assessment, including in the the VRAG. The PCL-R is lengthy and time-consuming process, which has led to the development of the Childhood and Adolescent Taxon Scale (CATS), which is a shorter, more time efficient measure of psychopathy that can also be used in the VRAG. This study is an extension of research done by Bolton (2006) that was designed to assess and compare the utility of the PCL-R and CATS, specifically when used within the VRAG. The current study hypothesized that VRAG scores calculated with the CATS as its index of psychopathy would be equivalent to scores obtained with the PCL-R, supporting the use of the more time efficient CATS in prediction of likelihood of violent recidivism. It was also hypothesized that VRAG scores would be equivalent in assessment of both African-American and Caucasian offenders, regardless of which psychopathy measure was used. Furthermore, Bolton’s research identified potential racial bias in the use of violence risk assessment scores when making decisions concerning patients’ level of security and restrictiveness. The current study also examined decisions concerning levels of security and restrictiveness, and related violent risk assessment scores. One hundred twenty male forensic inpatients from a Midwestern psychiatric hospital [Caucasian (N=65), African-American (N=55)] were selected at random for inclusion in this study. Contrary to the hypotheses, results found that the VRAG-P and VRAG-C scores were not equivalent. VRAG-P scores were significantly higher than VRAG-C scores for the overall sample and African-American patients. However, scores were not significantly different for Caucasian patients. There were no significant differences within any risk assessment instrument based on race. Finally, no significant differences were found in decisions related to level of security between Caucasian and African-American subjects. Findings are discussed and their implications for clinical practice.