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Use of Actuarials at Civil Commitment Hearings to Predict the Likelihood of Future Sexual Violence

NCJ Number
Sexual Abuse: A Journal of Research and Treatment Volume: 15 Issue: 4 Dated: October 2003 Pages: 377-382
Fred S. Berlin; Nathan W. Galbreath; Brendan Geary; Gerard McGlone
Date Published
October 2003
6 pages
This article discusses the use of actuarials to predict the likelihood of future acts of sexual violence.
Actuarials currently in use at civil commitment hearings have included the Rapid Risk Assessment for Sex Offender Recidivism (RRASOR), the Minnesota Sex Offender Screening Tool-Revised (MNSOST-R), and the Static-99. The RRASOR rates an individual on the basis of either the presence or absence of four identifiable risk factors: (1) the number of sex offenses for which he has been previously been either charged or convicted; (2) his current age; (3) the gender of his former victims; and (4) the nature of his relationship to them (intra- or extrafamilial). The MNSOST-R is a 16 item actuarial tool. A score of eight or higher is often considered suggestive of a high risk of recidivism. The Static-99 is a 10 item actuarial tool. The 10 items that need to be rated include the number of prior sex offenses, prior nonsexual violence, and current age of the offender. A total Static-99 score of six or more is considered to be reflective of a high risk of sexual recidivism. Actuarials can potentially be very misleading if one incorrectly attributes the overall risk of a previously screened group to a specific individual within it. An actuarial tool cannot first be used to “screen in” a group of persons to be considered for possible civil commitment; and then once again be used at the commitment hearing itself to further differentiate the likelihood of future sexual violence of a given individual within that group. If that fact is not made clear at a civil commitment hearing, then the prejudicial effects of actuarial data may outweigh its probative value. For that reason, the use of actuarial data should be restricted to the screening process, rather than introducing it as evidence of a given individual’s likely risk, as is now being done, at the civil commitment hearing itself. 1 table, 11 references