Cultural Bias in Violence Risk Assessment – Article Summary

Traditionally, violence risk assessment tools are applied to evaluate if individuals are likely to participate in dangerous behavior in the near future. The validity of such assessment tools relies on historical and current risk factors, along with personality traits of an individual. Nevertheless, common assessment tools do no account for cultural factors. In their article “Assessing violence Risk with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Offfenders: condieration for forensic Practice,” Day, Tamatea, Casey, and Geia, (2018), highlight the susceptibility of modern risk assessment tools to cultural partialities. Their paper begins by underlining the case of a recent aboriginal individual – Mr Jeffrey Ewert. Ewert was a convicted offender who was serving two life sentences for attempted murder and second-degree murder at the time of study. The primary issue emphasized by Day, Tamatea, Casey, and Geia, (2018) is that Ewert had been denied parole due to his negative psychological assessment reports. Assessment tools had shown that he presented a high risk. In opposition to the verdict, multiple legal teams pointed the possibility of lacking validity in the particular assessment tools used to assess him.

            The main goal of the article is to question the actuarial risk assessment tools that are commonly taken as a standard during official risk assessment by forensic practitioners. Actuarial risk assessment tools can be likened to the Historical, Clinical, Risk-20 (HCR-20) and Psychopathy Checklist-Revised (PCL-R) tool, which follow a highly structured approach to assessment. Tools that have been specifically developed to assess sexual and violent behaviors often utilize risk factors such as victim characteristics, age, and offence history. However, minimal assessment tools take account of all known factors. Neither are known tools consistent as far as predictors are included. The failure to account for all factors is precisely highlighted in the article.

Specifically, Day, Tamatea, Casey, and Geia, (2018) go ahead to provide a unique perspective on the use of conventional risk assessment tools among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander offenders and prisoners in Australia. They support their argument with empirical works in literature drawing attention to the limitations of Actuarial assessment tools. The first underlying contention is that the normative data utilized in translating the scores to probabilities of recidivism are consistent across all sex subtypes, yet there are observable differences within-groups. The second issue is that there is a natural unreliability related to the application group-based risk data to conditions of individual offenders. Apart from in-group differences and unreliability associated with group-based data, attention is drawn to questionable appropriateness of assessments that are focused on social outcomes and the lacking construct validity of tools that have been developed according to theory rather than practice. Some of the key themes in Day, Tamatea, Casey, and Geia’s (2018) work are the failure to reflect on the social circumstances in which risk emerges, the lack of knowledge about base rates, and the problem with assumed supposition. The authors spotlight the nature of risk assessment as a matter of social justice in addition to statistical accuracy. They claim that conventional risk assessment processes often ignore environmental factors and, instead, focus on the intrinsic factors than exist within the individual. This usually results in some degree of cultural bias. Hence, the researcher proposed the development of fresh structured professional judgement tools that encompass cultural contexts of risk.

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