Friday, September 12, 2014

Steven Yoder: The Promise (and Perils) of Predicting Sex Crimes

I believe in knowing and understanding all sides of an argument, that way a sound and balanced solution is a real possibility. 

As I have been advocating for a risk-based classification system here in Virginia as opposed to the current conviction-based system, some readers might be surprised that I’m posting the below article on this blog. 

But I’ve always said that static assessment tools are insufficient at rating any future risks because it ONLY looks at the past and not at any progress or growth that has occurred in the last 5, 10, 15 or more years since the crime. To properly evaluate anyone a combination of both static AND dynamic factors must be part of the process plus 3 or more people should be tallying the results and making distinctions.   

After reading the full article (below) I understand both sides of the issue better than before and I still believe a Risk-Based classification system in Virginia would elevate our Registry to be a smarter tool allowing State resources to be better directed towards those who are more likely to re-offend instead of treating everyone as a high-level threat when we know (based on the recidivism rates) that is NOT the case. 

One-size does NOT fit all! 

The status quo is failing our citizens. 

Let’s face it there is no crystal-ball to predict the future, but if the State of Virginia is going to classify it’s offenders it would be smarter to do it with Static (past) AND Dynamic (current) Factors together as opposed to the Current Static-Only process that we’ve been doing for almost 20 years resulting in approximately 83% of the VSP Registry being classified as Violent and only 17% as Non-Violent. An imbalance like this is the result of one-sided thinking; it’s time to look at both sides and then make some changes.  

Mary Devoy 

The Promise (and Perils) of Predicting Sex Crimes, September 11, 2014
By Steven Yoder

Attorney-General Eric Holder’s August 1 speech criticizing the use of risk assessment in sentencing decisions may not lever the issue to the top of the policy agenda. But a new paper could revive the debate about the effectiveness of risk tools in evaluating the chances of recidivism among those convicted of sex crimes. 

A forthcoming article in the Arizona State Law Journal argues that state criminal justice systems which use risk assessment tools may overestimate sex offenders’ likelihood of committing another crime. That message may complicate the efforts of those who advocate reform of sex offender policies. A key goal of reformers is to have states use actuarial risk assessments to classify offenders, instead of basing risk levels on their crime of conviction, as required by the 2006 federal Adam Walsh Act. 

“Actuarial” risk assessments are designed to let state criminal justice systems evaluate risk as car insurance companies do. A list of factors that correlate with recidivism is used to group offenders into categories. Offenders with factors that correlate with higher reoffense rates are judged at greater risk; those with fewer factors are put in a lower tier. 

Such assessments are increasingly used in release decisions for all types of offenders. A 2008 survey by the Association of Paroling Authorities International found that 32 out of 37 responding states used risk assessment tools to help determine conditions of parole or probation.  

For those convicted of sex crimes, the stakes in risk assessment are high. Those identified as likely to commit a new offense appear on public state sex offender registries. In many states and cities, they’re also banned from living near schools, parks, or daycares. 

Research shows that actuarial risk assessments perform better than what they replaced—relying on experts to use their experience to make unstructured clinical judgments. Studies done in the late 1990s concluded that professionals don’t perform much better than chance in predicting recidivism. 

News Alert: Virginia Supreme Court Ruling “A Hanover County Judge went Too Far in Requiring a Sex Offender to Surrender his Constitutional Protection Against Unreasonable Searches”

Yes! Yes! Yes! 

I reside in Hanover County so I am extra pleased with this ruling. Not only did the Virginia Supreme Court rule correctly but it was a 6-1 decision, in Virginia! Wahoooo! 

I have always had the highest respect for Mr. Benjamin. Not just as a Virginia attorney but for his integrity. 

Mary Devoy

Va. justices: Judge erred in ordering lifetime waiver of probationer's 4th Amendment rights, September 12, 2014
By Larry O’Dell

RICHMOND, Virginia — A judge went too far in requiring a sex offender to surrender his constitutional protection against unreasonable searches after leaving prison, the Virginia Supreme Court ruled Friday. 

In a 6-1 decision, the justices found that the court-imposed lifetime suspension of Ronald Stuart Murry Jr.'s rights under the Fourth Amendment was unreasonable. The court ordered a new sentencing hearing for Murry, who is serving 16 years and seven months in prison after being convicted of raping a 13-year-old girl.