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Sex Offender Risk Assessment: Where Are We and Where Are We Going?

Abstract

Purpose of Review

Risk assessment is one of the most ubiquitous tasks in the criminal justice system, informing virtually every decision made about offenders. This review, intended for researchers and practitioners, outlines some of the most important recent advances, emerging issues, and recommendations in sex offender risk assessment.

Recent Findings

The underlying nature and purpose of risk scales is reviewed, with implications for how we should evaluate them. Limits of recidivism probability estimates are discussed, and efforts to advance a common language for describing risk levels are highlighted. Advances in risk communication and field validity are summarized. The utility of protective risk factors in risk assessments is debated. Emerging areas in assessing offender change and assessments with child pornography offenders are discussed.

Summary

Despite critical advances in the last few years, there are still important gaps in knowledge, particularly for risk communication, field implementation, offender change, and child pornography offenders.

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References

Papers of particular interest, published recently, have been highlighted as: • Of importance •• Of major importance

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Acknowledgements

I would like to thank Stacey Kosega and Elsemiek Griemink for their assistance with references.

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Correspondence to L. Maaike Helmus.

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L. Maaike Helmus declares no conflict of interest.

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This article does not contain any studies with human or animal subjects performed by any of the authors.

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This article is part of the Topical Collection on Sexual Disorders

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Helmus, L.M. Sex Offender Risk Assessment: Where Are We and Where Are We Going?. Curr Psychiatry Rep 20, 46 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11920-018-0909-8

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Keywords

  • Risk assessment
  • Sexual offenders
  • Recidivism
  • Prediction
  • Offender assessment