Offender Risk Assessment

Criticisms of depending on the LSI-R for risk/needs assessment When we decided on the appropriate action to take for Sam's case we heavily relied on the LSI-R test resulting in a low score. What if the score was a high one? I most probably wouldn't have decided to put Sam into a community setting, a high LSI-R score would most probably lead to incarceration. An example of this can be found in a report where it describes a case of an Edmonton prostitute.

This was recently illustrated in the case of Lisa Neve, a former prostitute from Edmonton, who in 1994 was found to be a dangerous offender by the Court of Queen's Bench of Alberta. In the reasons given for the decision, Justice Murray pointed to the assessments of four practicing psychiatrists who read her case files and her personal diaries, in addition to the transcripts of her previous court appearances. All four psychiatrists, after examining the materials and interviewing Neve, concluded that she was a dangerous psychopath who suffered from anti-social personality disorder.

Neve had been found guilty of robbing a prostitute using a weapon, and had previous convictions for uttering threats, assault, solicitation, break and enter, and other charges dating back to 1988. The court declared her to be a dangerous offender and she was placed in custody for an indefinite period. (Offender Risk Assessment. Pg15) However, she took her case to the Appeals Court and won. Why? According to the Appeals Court, Justice Murray failed to take into account Neve's potential for rehabilitation and her troubling past (cited in "Former Dangerous Offender Freed," 1999).

Further, Murray relied heavily on the opinions of mental health professionals and did not consider any actuarial assessments that would likely have shown Neve to pose only a moderate risk given that she had only 4 violent offences among the 22 prior convictions that she had amassed. This case is illustrative of the suggestion made by Skurka and Renzella (1998) that the judiciary typically do not question the legitimacy of the opinions of behavioural experts. (Offender Risk Assessment.Pg15)

When assessing the risk/needs of an inmate one must be careful to keep in mind their backgrounds and history because in Sam's case, harsh punishment like incarceration would have hurt him more than helped if he had a LSI-R score that was high.

Bibliography Books

Griffiths, Curt. T & Cunningham, Alison H. Canadian Criminal Justice; A Primer. Canada: Thompson Ltd. 2003 Roberts, Julian & Grossman, Michelle G. Criminal Justice in Canada: A Reader. Thompson Ltd. 2004