Dr. Itiel Dror IAFMHS Keynote Address

iafmhs logocmykDr. Itiel Dror presents keynote address on The Pitfalls in Forensic Assessments
and How to Overcome Them
at the 2016 International Association of Forensic Mental Health Services.

This content is provided in partnership with the International Association of Forensic Mental Health Services (IAFMHS). Click these links for more information on IAFMHS or to become a member.

Dr. Itiel Dror

University College London

Dr. Itiel Dror is a cognitive neuroscientist. Interested in the cognitive architecture that underpins expertise, he attained his Ph.D. from Harvard University in 1994. His academic work relates to theoretical issues underlying human performance and cognition. Dror’s research examines the information processing involved in perception, judgment and decision-making. He has published over 100 research articles, and has been extensively cited in the American National Academy of Sciences Report on Forensic Science.

Dr. Dror has worked with the U.S. Air Force and in the medical domain, examining expert decision making and error. In the forensic domain he has demonstrated how contextual information can influence judgments and decision making of experts; he has shown that even fingerprint and DNA experts can reach different conclusions when the same evidence is presented within different extraneous contexts. Dr. Dror has worked with many US forensic laboratories (e.g., FBI, NYPD, LAPD, San Francisco PD) as well as in other countries (e.g., The UK, Netherlands, Finland, Canada, and Australia) in providing training and implementing cognitive best practices in evaluating forensic evidence. Dr. Dror was the Chair of the NIST forensic science human factor group, and is a member of the National Commission on Forensic Science human factor group.

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Psychopathic Personality Misunderstood by Potential Jury Members

Jury members misunderstand certain aspects of psychopathic personality, appearing to believe that psychopathy is characterized by psychotic symptoms. This is the bottom line of a recently published article in Law and Human Behavior. Below is a summary of the research and findings as well as a translation of this research into practice.

Featured Article | Law and Human Behavior | 2014, Vol. 38, No. 5, 490-500lhb

“So, What Is a Psychopath?” Venireperson Perceptions, Beliefs, and Attitudes About Psychopathic Personality


Shannon Toney Smith, Texas A&M University
John F. Edens, Texas A&M University
John Clark, University of Texas-Tyler
Allison Rulseh, Texas A&M University


This study surveyed over 400 individuals attending jury duty regarding various perceptions, attitudes, and beliefs they had concerning psychopathic personality (psychopathy). The protocol included (a) prototype ratings of what participants considered to be core features, using the Comprehensive Assessment of Psychopathic Personality (CAPP) prototype rating scale; (b) questions concerning knowledge and beliefs about psychopathy (e.g., prevalence in society); and (c) attitudinal scales concerning potential associated features (e.g., criminality, rehabilitation potential), etiological underpinnings, and moral judgments and legal sanctions. Consistent with results of earlier studies using expert raters, jury panel members rated most of the 33 individual CAPP items and all 6 CAPP scales as at least moderately prototypical, with Self and Dominance domains obtaining the highest mean ratings. Many participants also strongly endorsed symptoms of psychosis (e.g., delusions) as prototypical of psychopathy. Despite this, they viewed psychopaths as responsible for their own actions, as capable of determining right from wrong, and as generally not “insane.” Our findings indicate that jury panel members view the prototypical psychopath as highly dominant, self-focused, and lacking in remorse and empathy and reinforce the need for expert witnesses to clearly differentiate between psychopathy and psychotic-spectrum disorders.


psychopathy, jurors, CAPP, legal decision-making, attitudes

Summary of the Research

The current research surveyed 400 individuals who had been summoned for jury duty regarding their beliefs and perceptions of psychopathy using the Comprehensive Assessment of Psychopathic Personality (CAPP).

Existing research regarding public perceptions of psychopathy reveal confusion between psychopathy and psychosis/psychotic disorders. The Psychopathy Checklist Revised (PCL-R) has received widespread support as a means of operationalizing and assessing the features of psychopathy. Earlier research by Edens and colleagues (2013) asked individuals who were summoned for jury duty to read a vignette about a convicted capital murderer, and later rate the extent to which this defendant was psychopathic using PCL-R-like labels and other relevant traits. The results revealed that, “community members associate some nonpathological and even potentially adaptive traits with [psychopathy] that have not been emphasized in the PCL-R model” (p. 491).

The current research study utilized the Comprehensive Assessment of Psychopathic Personality (CAPP), as it “differs from the PCL-R in its more extensive focus on cognitive style and other personality traits argued to be central to psychopathy” (p. 491), thereby encompassing a broader array of characteristics more readily thought of by a wider span of individuals.

Participants in this study were given the opportunity to score CAPP items on a 7-point scale, rating how typical they believed each item to be of psychopathic personality (1 = not typical; 7 = very typical). A set of items were intended to be used as content foils, “that are for the most part inversely related to traits theorists typically have associated with psychopathy” (p. 493). Embedded in this list of items were traits that represented psychotic symptoms, since there is a history of laypersons using psychosis to describe a psychopath. Additional open-ended questions were included to gain a sense of where most individuals get their ideas about psychopaths, who they think of when they hear this term, whether they believe they know a psychopath, and how common this construct is in society.

The five highest rated items, most typical of psychopathy, were Manipulative, Lacks Remorse, Self-Centered, Self-Justifying, and Domineering. A few CAPP items were not viewed as particularly indicative of psychopathy, with mean ratings below four on items such as Lacks Planfulness, Lacks Concentration, and Lacks Perseverance.

“In contrast to the generally high rating of CAPP items, participants rated none of the foil items as highly prototypical, though one (Strange) approached this cutoff. Only one foil (Perfectionistic) was rated as moderately prototypical. Consistent with the relatively high ratings for Strange, however, participants rated the three psychotic spectrum (Delusional Beliefs, Peculiar Behavior, Disturbed Thinking) items as highly prototypical—with Delusional Beliefs actually rated as the third highest item in the entire protocol” (p. 494).

Translating Research into Practice

“Layperson perceptions of psychopathy are an understudied and important area of research because community perceptions and attitudes about mentally disordered offenders in general can impact public policy, and there is both experimental and naturalistic evidence that juror attitudes about whether a defendant is psychopathic influence the outcome of civil and criminal cases” (p. 497).

“Overall, jury panel members tended to view the prototypical psychopath as highly dominant (manipulative, domineering, and deceitful), self-focused (self-centered, entitled, self-justifying, and unique), and lacking in remorse and empathy for others—consistent with many classic models of the core features of psychopathy” (p. 497).

An “important finding [of this research] relates to jury panel members’ high endorsement of psychotic items as prototypically psychopathic. This is generally consistent with previous findings indicating that laypersons might fail to discriminate between psychopathy and psychosis but goes a step further to suggest a more pronounced confusion over specific symptoms (e.g., delusions) rather than simply conflating labels with a root term ‘psycho.’ This suggests a more basic misunderstanding of the disorders at a conceptual level” (p. 497).

“These findings reinforce the necessity for expert witnesses to clearly elucidate during testimony that psychosis and psychopathy are not comparable disorders and that the latter is not associated with being out of touch with reality” (p. 497).

Other Interesting Tidbits for Researchers and Clinicians

“Interestingly, despite participants’ relatively high endorsement of psychotic features as prototypical of psychopathy, they still tended to view psychopaths as responsible for their actions, not insane per se, and not generally in need of hospitalization. This suggests that even if jurors do tend to conflate psychopathy and psychosis, they continue to view these individuals as having a relatively high degree of cognitive or volitional control over their behavior. If anything, [these] results suggest that individuals suffering from genuine psychosis who become involved in the legal system may be unfairly disadvantaged by their disorder being confused with psychopathic traits (e.g., deceitful, self-centered, and remorseless) by the typical juror” (pp. 497-498). It remains crucial for experts to be clear in delineating what psychopathy is and how it might impact and individual’s thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.

Join the Discussion

As always, please join the discussion below if you have thoughts or comments to add!

Special Contributor

ZappalaMarissa - PictureContributions to this post were made by Marissa Zappala.

Marissa is currently enrolled in the Master of Arts in Forensic Psychology program at John Jay College of Criminal Justice located in New York City. She completed her undergraduate work at Penn State University, where she obtained a B.A. Psychology and B.A. Criminology. Her aspirations involve the pursuit of a Clinical Forensic PhD program, and an eventual career in Forensic Psychological Evaluation. To contact Marissa, please e-mail marissa.zappala@gmail.com.

Changes in Dynamic Factors During Treatment Predicts Postdischarge Recidivism

lhbChangeability of dynamic risk and protective factors during treatment is useful for measuring development in forensic patients related to reduced violent recidivism. This is the bottom line of a recently published article in Law and Human Behavior. Below is a summary of the research and findings as well as a translation of this research into practice.

Featured Article | Law and Human Behavior | 2014, OnlineFirst

Changes in Dynamic Risk and Protective Factors for Violence During Inpatient Forensic Psychiatric Treatment: Predicting Reductions in Postdischarge Community Recidivism


Michiel De Vries Robbé, Van der Hoeven Clinic, Utrecht, the Netherlands
Vivienne de Vogel, Van der Hoeven Clinic, Utrecht, the Netherlands
Kevin S. Douglas, Simon Fraser University and Mid-Sweden University
Henk L. I. Nijman, Radboud University and Altrecht, Den Dolder, the Netherlands


Empirical studies have rarely investigated the association between improvements on dynamic risk and protective factors for violence during forensic psychiatric treatment and reduced recidivism after discharge. The present study aimed to evaluate the effects of treatment progress in risk and protective factors on violent recidivism. For a sample of 108 discharged forensic psychiatric patients pre- and post-treatment assessments of risk (HCR-20) and protective factors (SAPROF) were compared. Changes were related to violent recidivism at different follow-up times after discharge. Improvements on risk and protective factors during treatment showed good predictive validity for abstention from violence for short- (1 year) as well as long-term (11 years) follow-up. This study demonstrates the sensitivity of the HCR-20 and the SAPROF to change and shows improvements on dynamic risk and protective factors are associated with lower violent recidivism long after treatment.


protective factors, risk assessment, treatment progress, violence, desistance

Summary of the Research

“Studies on the dynamic factors of the HCR-20 have shown good predictive validities for violence at short- as well as long-term follow-up and have demonstrated their usefulness for treatment guidance and evaluation of violence risk. However, few studies have investigated the relationship between changes in dynamic risk factors and treatment progress or reductions in violence risk. The present study investigated the usefulness of the joint assessment of the HCR-20 and the SAPROF for measuring changes in dynamic risk and protective factors during treatment. The aim was to evaluate the predictive validity of treatment progress as measured by the tools (i.e., reductions in risk factors and improvements in protective factors) for treatment success. It was hypothesized that dynamic risk factors and protective factors would change over time during treatment and that improvements on risk factors and protective factors would be negatively related to violent recidivism after treatment” (p. xx).

Participants were 108 male patients with a history of either general violent or sexually violent offending. Treatment length averaged 5.65 years and short-term recidivism was defined as any violence committed during a 12-month follow-up period, while long-term recidivism during the maximum average follow-up period of 11 years.

The HCR-20 and SAPROF were coded at the start and end of treatment, and comparisons were made between violent recidivists and those who did not violent reoffend.

Pretreatment risk and protective factors did not significantly differ between future recidivists and nonrecidivists. “However, at discharge future recidivists had higher scores on both dynamic HCR-20 subscales and lower scores on all three SAPROF subscales compared to those participants who turned out to be long-term desisters. These differences were significant for the clinical risk scale and for the internal and motivational protection scale, as well as for the total SAPROF and HCR-SAPROF index posttreatment scores” (p. xx).

“On average patients with final judgments that were rated one risk category higher than other patients (moderate vs. low, or high vs. moderate) were 11 times more likely to recidivate violently within one year after treatment and three times more likely to recidivate in a violent offense in the long run” (p. xx)

Translating Research into Practice

“At the end of treatment, protective factor total scores were significantly greater for the nonrecidivists and dynamic risk factor total scores significantly lower, indicating that the patients who changed the most while in treatment (i.e., those who showed the greatest improvements in risk and protective factors) were the most resilient to violent offending” (p. xx).

Positive changes during treatment appear to reduce recidivism in the short and long term. The likelihood of short term recidivism may be 2 times less likely with a 5 point reduction on the HCR-20 over treatment, and 2 times less likely with a 5 point increase on the SAPROF. Additionally, a 5-point increase over treatment on the SAPROF may indicate over 3 times reduced probability of short term recidivism. “Thus, those who changed the most during treatment still showed significantly lower violent recidivism rates long after treatment had ended… the present findings exemplify that treatment changes can have fairly stable long-term positive effects on abstention from violence.”

“The findings in this study suggest that the HCR-20 dynamic risk factors and the SAPROF protective factors could be useful to measure meaningful change in risk and protection and potentially provide for attainable treatment targets in clinical practice. This implies the HCR-20 and the SAPROF could be useful in guiding effective violence reduction efforts” (p. xx).

Professionals evaluating treatment effectiveness and efficacy may benefit from analyzing the treatment changes measured by the HCR-20 and SAPROF. “This connection between dynamic factor changes and treatment success is promising for the value of dynamic risk assessment tools for evaluating treatment progress, predicting successful treatment outcome and guiding treatment interventions in psychiatric practice. Furthermore, these findings are supportive of the apparent effectiveness of forensic psychiatric treatment in reducing the likelihood of violent reoffending in a high-risk offender population” (p. xx).

Other Interesting Tidbits for Researchers and Clinicians

“The finding that change scores have relatively stable predictive validities across follow-up times suggests that, at least for the current specific subgroup of patients, improvements in risk and protection levels during forensic psychiatric treatment of offenders at high risk of violent recidivism may have long-term effects in making society safer. Due to individual cases of recidivism getting much attention in the media, the general public opinion on the usefulness of treatment of offenders at high risk has become quite skeptical. The positive results on the changeability of risk and protective factors for violent offending observed in the present study may therefore present a valuable finding in support of the potential effectiveness of forensic psychiatric treatment.”

Join the Discussion

As always, please join the discussion below if you have thoughts or comments to add!

Contributing Author

BanfordMegan-picThis post was authored by Megan Banford.

Megan is a graduate student in the Forensic Psychology program at John Jay College. She graduated in 2013 from Simon Fraser University with a B.A. (Honors) and hopes to attain her PhD in clinical forensic psychology. Her main research interests include violence risk assessment and management, juvenile offenders and public policy.

Separate Housing for Adult Court Youth an Unfounded Concern

lhbThe concern regarding separate housing for adult court and juvenile court youth appears unfounded; no differences were found between the two groups in terms of victimization or offending. This is the bottom line of a recently published article in Law and Human Behavior. Below is a summary of the research and findings as well as a translation of this research into practice.

Featured Article | Law and Human Behavior | 2014, Vol. 38, No. 2, 126-138

Tried as an Adult, Housed as a Juvenile: A Tale of Youth From Two Courts Incarcerated Together


Jordan Bechtold University of California, Irvine
Elizabeth Cauffman University of California, Irvine


Research has questioned the wisdom of housing juveniles who are convicted in criminal court in facilities with adult offenders. It is argued that minors transferred to criminal court should not be incarcerated with adults, due to a greater likelihood of developing criminal skills, being victimized, and attempting suicide. Alternatively, it has been suggested that the other option, housing these youth with minors who have committed less serious crimes and who are therefore adjudicated in juvenile courts, might have unintended consequences for juvenile court youth. The present study utilizes a sample of youth incarcerated in one secure juvenile facility, with some offenders processed in juvenile court (n = 261) and others processed in adult court (n = 103). We investigate whether youth transferred to adult court engage in more institutional offending (in particular, violence) and experience less victimization than their juvenile court counterparts. Results indicate that although adult court youth had a greater likelihood of being convicted of violent commitment offenses than juvenile court youth, the former engaged in less offending during incarceration than the latter. In addition, no significant differences in victimization were observed. These findings suggest that the concern about the need for separate housing for adult court youth is unfounded; when incarcerated together, those tried in adult court do not engage in more institutional violence than juvenile court youth.


transfer to adult court, institutional behavior, juvenile court, juvenile offenders

Summary of the Research

Much debate in juvenile justice centers around whether it is most appropriate to house criminal court juvenile offenders with adult offenders or with juvenile offenders. Criminal court (adult court) juvenile offenders are tried as adults because of the seriousness of their crime, not the age at which they committed the crime. On one hand, housing criminal court youth offenders with adult offenders raises safety concerns should these youth experience greater rates of victimization or become more likely to commit suicide. Another concern raised is the influence of other adult offenders in turning youth offenders into mature, sophisticated criminals. On the other hand, housing these individuals with juvenile court youth might increase institutional violence in these juvenile facilities, although there is little empirical evidence that housing adult court and juvenile court offenders together increases violence in juvenile facilities.

The goal of this study was to provide empirical data regarding this concern to assist in determining where adult court youth should serve their time. Violent and nonviolent institutional behavior and victimization experiences in a juvenile facility were examined and compared for juvenile offenders processed in criminal court and those processed in the juvenile court system. Participants were 364 male juvenile offenders between the ages of 14 and 17 years who had committed a crime against another person (e.g., robbery, aggravated assault, attempted murder, sexual assault, and murder). The sample was divided into 261 juvenile court youth and 103 adult court youth and was ethnically diverse and representative of youth incarcerated in Southern California. Each participant completed six interviews over the course of their first two months of incarceration and data were collected regarding prior and institutional offending. In addition, frequency of experienced victimization was assessed with The Exposure to Violence Inventory. Institutional reports of victimization were not obtained, one of the study’s limitations.

Background Variables

No differences were found with respect to age, ethnicity, or proportion of time in the facility. Black youth had a higher chance of being transferred to adult court than White youth; however, when total prior arrests and violent offending were considered, these differences became non-significant… “In fact, White youth had more prior arrests than Black youth”(pp. 131-132).

Commitment offense

“Adult court minors were more likely to have a violent commitment offense than juvenile court youth and more likely to be a first time offender. 96.1% of adult court youth were convicted of a violent offense as their commitment offense compared with only 59.4% of juvenile court youth. The odds of being convicted of a violent offense were 16.9 times higher for adult court youth than juvenile court offenders.” (pp. 132)

Prior offending

According to official records, “youth tried in adult court were more likely to be first time offenders than juvenile court youth.” Self-reports of lifetime violent offending did not reveal any differences between adult court and juvenile court youth.

Do Adult Court Youth Engage in More Institutional Offending Than Youth From Juvenile Court?

“No analysis (nonviolent or violent; facility-report or self-report) indicated that adult court youth exhibit more offending than juvenile court youth. In fact, according to facility reports, juvenile court youth commit more violent and nonviolent offenses than do adult court youth.” (pp. 132)

Do Juvenile Court and Adult Court Youth Experience Similar Amounts of Victimization While Incarcerated Together?

“Results indicated no differences in victimization between juvenile court and adult court youth. Although a few youth were victimized as many as 13 times, on average, youth in the facility reported being victimized about one time (M = 0.63, SD = 1.53) during the first 2 months of incarceration ” (p. 132). There were no differences between juvenile court and adult court youth in victimization experiences during the study period.

Translating Research into Practice

This study found that even though adult court youth offenders were more likely to commit serious offenses, there was “no evidence that these youth engage in more violent or nonviolent institutional offending than youth processed in juvenile court”. It was actually juvenile court youth who “not only engaged in more institutional offending but also had more prior arrests and self-reported a more extensive history of offending than the adult court youth.” The strength of these findings is that they were consistent “across multiple data sources (facility-report and self-report; violent and nonviolent offenses” (pp. 133-135).

The study also found that there was a low likelihood for adult court youth to reoffend. Surprisingly, it was adult court youth who were more likely to be first time offenders than juvenile court offenders. This is in line with previous research indicating first time offenders are less likely to reoffend when compared to chronic offenders.

The study authors found it “especially encouraging” that the data indicate that adult court youth “do not engage in particularly high levels of offending when confined with other juvenile offenders” (pp. 134).

Taken together, the results of this study suggest that the hypothesized negative outcomes of housing adult court youth in a facility with juvenile court youth may warrant reconsideration. Adult court youth did not engage in more violent or nonviolent offending than juvenile court youth and there were no differences between the two groups in terms of victimization experiences. The study authors contrast their results with those from research regarding housing adult court juvenile offenders with other adults in which poorer outcomes (e.g., higher rates of recidivism) are found for juvenile offenders juveniles housed with adult offenders. In addition, juvenile facilities offer developmentally appropriate settings that promote educational objectives.

“Maintaining and encouraging academic goals—especially while incarcerated—is developmentally critical, as research indicates that education is a strong predictor of abstaining and desisting from delinquency and antisocial behavior. Juvenile facilities are, by design, more prepared to handle the educational needs of young offenders than adult facilities.” (pp. 135)

In addition, “Researchers found that when adolescents perceived a high degree of community reentry planning and/or services (e.g., mental health) during secure placement, the adolescent was less likely to recidivate over the subsequent year after release” (p. 135)

In summary, the researchers of the present study suggest that, “decision makers may want to consider the possibility of housing adult court youth in juvenile facilities (ideally on a case-by-case basis)” (p. 135).

Other Interesting Tidbits for Researchers and Clinicians

Future research could focus on comparing adult court youth housed in adult facilities to adult court youth housed in juvenile facilities. The present study only focused on the latter. Analyzing who is victimizing whom could also give researchers a better idea of the conditions in youth facilities.

Join the Discussion

As always, please join the discussion below if you have thoughts or comments to add!

Special Contributor

GaliciaBetsy-pictureContributions to this post were made by Betsy Galicia.

Betsy E. Galicia is a graduate student born and raised in Houston, Texas pursuing her MA in Forensic Psychology at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. She is interested in cultural differences in forensic assessments and cultural competency. She plans to write a thesis on these topics and go on to earn a doctoral degree. Other interests include traveling and exploring the world, going to parks, riding her bike, and re-reading The Giver by Lois Lowry.

Please Join Us for a 3-hr Live Webinar on the HCR-20 Version 3

HCR20We are pleased to announce a 3-hour live webinar on the newly revised Version 3 of the HCR-20 to be led by threat assessment expert and lead author of the measure, Dr. Kevin Douglas. The webinar will be held on 3 different dates and offered at 2 different times on each date. We are limiting space in each session so participants will have the opportunity to interact with Dr. Douglas and ask questions regarding the development, use, and implementation of this risk assessment instrument. If you are interested in learning more about this important risk assessment instrument or are considering adopting it for use in your clinical practice, please join us for this webinar.

About the HCR-20 Version 3

The HCR-20 is the most commonly used violence risk assessment measure across 44 different countries. It helps professionals in correctional, mental health, and forensic settings make decisions about who poses higher versus lower risk for violence, either within institutions or in the community, and to devise and monitor violence risk management plans. The HCR-20 (Version 2) has been evaluated in more than 100 studies and implemented or evaluated in at least 32 countries.

Version 3 of the HCR-20 was recently released. Version 3 maintains the basic features of Version 2, but has additional features that will help decision makers to determine which risk factors are most relevant at the individual level, how to produce a meaningful case formulation, how to develop helpful risk management plans, and how to make decisions about level of violence risk. In addition, some of the items have changed from Version 2 to Version 3.

About Dr. Kevin Douglas

Douglas, Kevin.jpgKevin S. Douglas is Associate Professor and Associate Chair, Department of Psychology, Simon Fraser University. He is also a Guest Professor of Applied Criminology at Mid-Sweden University, and a Senior Research Advisor at the University of Oslo. Dr. Douglas received his law degree in 2000 from the University of British Columbia, and his Ph.D. in clinical (forensic) psychology from Simon Fraser University in 2002. He received a Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research Career Scholar Award (2005-2010), and was the recipient of the Saleem Shah Award for Early Career Excellence in Psychology and Law (2005), awarded jointly by the American Psychology-Law Society and the American Academy of Forensic Psychology. His research has been funded by the National Science Foundation (USA), Canadian Institutes of Health Research, Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, and the Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research. His research addresses violence risk assessment and management, the association between various mental and personality disorders (i.e., psychosis; psychopathy) and violence, and dynamic (changeable, treatment-relevant) risk factors. He is co-author of the Historical-Clinical-Risk Management-20 (HCR-20) violence risk assessment measure, which has been translated into 18 languages and is used broadly around the world (roughly 35 countries) in correctional, forensic, and psychiatric settings to help guide decisions about violence potential and how to reduce it. Dr. Douglas is lead author on the latest (third) revision of the HCR-20, called the HCR:V3. More recently, he has been conducting research on other violence-related adverse experiences, including suicide-related behavior, and being victimized by violence. On these topics, Dr. Douglas has authored over 100 journal articles, books, or book chapters.

About the Webinar

This is a 3-hour live webinar that allows for interaction with Dr. Douglas. Participants will receive a certificate of completion as well as 3 Continuing Education credits for attending.

Dates and Times

November 5th, 2014 | 9:00am (PST)/Noon (EST)     OR     1:00pm (PST)/4:00pm (EST)

November 10th, 2014 | 9:00am (PST)/Noon (EST)     OR     1:00pm (PST)/4:00pm (EST)

November 12th, 2014 | 9:00am (PST)/Noon (EST)     OR     1:00pm (PST)/4:00pm (EST)

Learning Objectives

This 3-hour live webinar will:

• Describe the revision process for the development of Version 3 and outline the changes that differentiate Version 2 from Version 3

• Provide an overview of the items and a discussion regarding how the measure can be used in practice (implementation issues)

• Provide an opportunity to interact with Dr. Douglas and ask questions


The cost for this webinar is $149


Registration for this 3-hour live webinar is now open. Interested participants can register by clicking the “Register Now!” button below.


Register Now

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Upcoming Training Dates for Risk Assessment Workshops

Consolidated Continuing Education & Professional Training (CONCEPT) is pleased to offer Continuing Education (CE) credit for workshops provided by our partner, ProActive ReSolutions, who will be holding several upcoming in-person workshops on violence risk assessment and management. Workshop dates are listed below.

As always, online training on risk assessment and management is available at any time. Descriptions of our risk assessment and management training programs can be found on our Programs page as well as below.

In-Person Training Workshops


  • Advanced Violence Risk Assessment and Management Workshop for Higher Education

Dates: May 25-29, 2015
Location: Burlington, Ontario, Canada
Instructors: Drs. Stephen Hart, Laura Guy, & Kelly Watt
More Information: Click here for further information about this training course, including schedule, course objectives, and description. 

Click here to Register for CE Credits for this Workshop | 30 CEs | $125


Online Training Programs

  • Foundations of Threat Assessment

The Foundations of Threat Assessment training program accommodates varying levels of experience in threat assessment and risk management and focuses on the most common forms of violence (e.g., general violence, intimate partner violence, stalking).

This Foundations of Threat Assessment training program provides an opportunity to learn new skills and build on existing skills in assessing and managing risk for violence. In addition, general principles of threat assessment and risk management as well as best practices supported by researchers and practitioners around the world are discussed.

More information about this training program can be found here.


  • Advanced Issues in the Assessment of Risk for Violence: Case Formulation

This training program will provide practitioners with a summary of the most up-to-date research findings relevant to violence and sexual violence, provide an overview of the most recent clinical guidance on risk assessment and management using a structured professional judgement approach, and give practitioners the opportunity to advance their practice in respect of clinical interviewing skills, risk formulation, risk management planning, and risk communication through relevant exercises and case studies.

More information about this training program can be found here.


  • Assessment of Risk for Violence using the HCR-20 Version 3

This training program on the Evaluation of Risk for Violence using the HCR-20 Version 3 was developed by Drs. Stephen Hart and Kevin Douglas and is presented in partnership with ProActive ReSolutions.

This training program focuses on the revised HCR-20 (now called HCR:V3) in the U.S. and describes why and how the HCR-20 was revised; how Version 3 differs from its predecessors; initial research validation of Version 3; what its risk factors are and how to rate them; and how to complete case formulation and risk management planning using Version 3. Participants will also have the opportunity to complete the HCR:V3 on a practice case.

More information is available about this training program here.


  • Evaluation of Risk for Sexual Violence using the RSVP

This training program on the Evaluation of Risk for Sexual Violence using the RSVP was developed by Dr. Stephen Hart and is presented in partnership with ProActive ReSolutions.

The Risk for Sexual Violence Protocol (RSVP) is a set of structured professional guidelines that can also be considered a psychological test. This training program describes the RSVP and takes the trainee through a series of video modules on the use of the RSVP for guiding judgements of risk for sexual violence. The trainee also works through three case studies to practice applying the RSVP to case formulation.

More information about this training program can be found here.

Cultural Context Important for Violence Risk Assessment in Australian Aboriginal Offenders

Psychology, Public Policy, and LawConsideration of cultural context is important for the evaluation of risk for violence in Australian Aboriginal Offenders and, by extension, other cultural minority groups. This is the bottom line of a recently published article in Psychology, Public Policy, and Law. Below is a summary of the research and findings as well as a translation of this research into practice.

Featured Article | Psychology, Public Policy, and Law | 2014, Vol. 20, No. 3, 281-293

Violence Risk Assessment in Australian Aboriginal Offender Populations: A Review of the Literature


Stephane M. Shepherd, Swinburne University of Technology
Yolonda Adams, Griffith University
Elizabeth McEntyre, University of New South Wales
Roz Walker, University of Western Australia


The utilization of violence risk instruments in forensic populations is increasing and a plethora of empirical investigations support their ability to predict recidivistic outcomes. However, the generalizability of these findings to culturally diverse populations is problematic given dissimilarities in cultural traditions, norms, and experiences. The present study explored this subject in relation to Aboriginal Australians. First, a concert of violence risk markers that are more prevalent among Aboriginal Australian offenders compared with non-Aboriginal offenders were examined in light of their social and historical context. Next, studies employing violence risk instruments on cohorts of Aboriginal Australian offenders were reviewed. Findings demonstrated moderate predictive accuracy for violence and commensurate utility with non-Aboriginal offenders although results should be treated with caution due to the paucity of available studies for consideration. Implications for clinical practice and culturally appropriate assessment models are discussed.


risk assessment, Aboriginal Australians, risk factors for violence, forensic psychology, clinical psychology

Summary of the Research

“The assumption that risk factors for violent and general recidivism extend to all offenders has been described as ethnocentric and engenders the misclassification of minority offenders potentially impacting their ability to receive adequate treatment… Contrastingly, prior research has demonstrated the commonalities of maladaptive behaviors across culturally diverse groups suggesting the universal utility of particular standardized risk measures. This debate has materialized in Australian clinical literature in light of the overrepresentation of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander Australians that are processed through the criminal justice system. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples represent 2.5% of the overall Australian population yet comprise 27% and 53% of adults and juveniles in custody, respectively. Research indicates that both adult and juvenile Aboriginal offenders are more likely to receive a custodial sentence and to have had previous contact with law enforcement compared to non-Aboriginal offenders” (p. 281).

“Prior investigations have underscored the higher rates of substance misuse, psychological distress, exposure to traumatic events, physical health problems, and contact with child protection agencies of Aboriginal Australians compared with non-Aboriginal Australians” (p. 282).

“Given the history of disenfranchisement and over-representation of Aboriginal people in Australia’s criminal justice system for violence related offenses, it is important that violence risk assessment instruments are validated as culturally appropriate for use with Aboriginal offenders to avert further inequity. The development of culturally relevant assessments potentially enables a consideration of the effects of historical and ongoing injustices on the contemporary wellbeing of Indigenous clients, thus engendering increased access to services and appropriate interventions for Aboriginal people.

In order to demonstrate utility with an Aboriginal offender population, risk measures must accomplish two objectives. First, it is important to ensure that the antecedent risk markers contained in risk checklists are equally valid for Aboriginal offender populations. Second, the administering of such instruments must be conducted within a culturally sensitive framework by a culturally competent and responsible practitioner” (p. 282).

The authors review the available literature on risk markers and risk assessment instruments with Australian Aboriginal offender groups and make recommendations regarding the importance of using a culturally sensitive framework for risk assessment with minority groups.

Risk Factors for Violence Among Australian Aboriginal Offenders

A review of the available literature indicates that there are several “risk factors common to violent offenders that have been found to have a greater prevalence among Australian Aboriginal offenders compared with non-Aboriginal offenders (p. 283).”

The risk factors that have a greater prevalence in Aboriginal offenders include:

  • Offending History/Early Offense Initiation

“Australian Aboriginal offenders have been found more likely than non-Aboriginal offenders to have served preceding periods in detention. Adult Aboriginal offenders are also more likely to have a history of juvenile detention…Prior offending history and exposure to violence appear to be considerable indicators of future recidivism for Aboriginal people. The overrepresentation of Aboriginal people in contemporary criminal justice data should also be considered within a historical context that comprised discriminatory and punitive policing practices.” (p. 283).

  • Education/Unemployment

“A plethora of research highlights the comparatively lower level of educational attainment for Aboriginal offenders…This may be representative of the broader Aboriginal population who are more likely to prematurely leave high school, attend class irregularly, and display lower literacy and numeracy ability…Although commonly found to be a risk factor across the general population, failing to finish high school is significantly associated with police contact and imprisonment for Aboriginal people. Poor schooling outcomes undoubtedly impact Aboriginal employment rates, which are lower than non-Aboriginal employment rates for all age groups and linked with future offending” (p. 283).

  • Substance Abuse

“Reports indicate that higher proportions of the Aboriginal population use illicit drugs compared with the non-Aboriginal population. In addition, the high prevalence of illicit drug use in Aboriginal correctional populations has been observed…Other studies on Aboriginal prisoners in Australia have discovered early exposure to substance abuse and a greater likelihood of being under the influence at arrest or in the course of a primary offense” (p. 283).

  • Mental Health

“Associations between mental illness and violent offending have been demonstrated in the literature and higher rates of mental health illnesses/issues are detected in offender samples within both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal populations compared with the general community. The presence of a mental illness has been found to increase the likelihood of recidivism for juvenile and adult offenders and incidentally shorten the return time to prison. Extant research has indicated high rates of mental illness among the general Aboriginal population…Of greater concern are findings that indicate Aboriginal offenders are far less likely to have received previous mental health treatment than non-Aboriginal offenders” (p. 284).

  • Family Violence

“Despite government initiatives to address the issue of family and lateral violence in Aboriginal communities, more than a third of Aboriginal prisoners are sentenced for intentional acts to cause injury (ABS, 2013). Given the prevalence of serious family related violence across portions of the Aboriginal population (Cripps & Adams, 2014), the likelihood of young Aboriginal people engaging in future violent behavior is subsequently escalated” (p. 284).

“The article [also] found that although incipient research has largely demonstrated comparative predictive ability for particular risk inventories across Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal samples, further investigation, particularly in the Australian context is warranted. It is also important to note than for the bulk of these studies, Aboriginal participants presented with higher baseline scores than non-Aboriginal participants although the predictive ability of the instruments were largely similar. This raises questions around potential misdiagnosis or possible overclassification and requires further exploration” (p. 288).

Translating Research into Practice

“This [article] underscores the cross-cultural regularity of certain core risk factors for violence. However, the analysis also indicates that violence risk factors for Aboriginal Australians may have unique precursory origins, notably the disruption of social and emotional wellbeing. As such, a comprehensive violence risk assessment must be considered within a broader cultural context and with regard to enduring legacies of colonization” (p. 285).

“Cultural competence is a set of attitudes and process of engagement that facilitates cross-cultural assessment through the accommodation of the diverse set of cultural experiences and worldviews of the client. It is now widely acknowledged that cultural competence is fundamental to good assessment practice and involves a commitment by the practitioners to self-exploration, critical self-reflection, and recognition of the implications of the power differentials inherent in their role of clinicians. It is essential for practitioners to possess a greater understanding of Aboriginal experiences” (p. 287).

“[This is] particularly important in the context of undertaking appropriate assessments in the criminal justice system to ascertain the possible mental health issues that may be contributing to maladaptive behavior, antisociality, and perceived attitudes. Additionally, any approach should be imbedded within a holistic model and any intervention should reflect this model when developing/delivering programs relating to violence. Intervention models should also include a spiritual element to allow individuals to connect or reconnect to their culture, while also considering the social and economic factors that may increase the risk of offending. The responsivity principle within the Risk-Needs-Responsivity rehabilitation model facilitates the matching of treatment to an offender’s personal and cultural circumstances. The development of treatment and rehabilitation programs which encompass pertinent cultural aspects and customs enhance service delivery, as well as cultivating motivation and program engagement for Aboriginal clients. Emerging alternative ways forward for Aboriginal offenders now include culturally appropriate Cognitive Behavior Therapy programs and strategies and tools for healing and cultural recovery aimed at overcoming violence.

Given these advances it is crucial that cultural competence is exercised in any violence risk assessment and associated treatment rehabilitation plan. It is equally the case that the criminal justice system needs to be culturally responsive and that the police, respective courts and prisons function in a culturally sensitive manner to support the needs of both practitioner and offenders” (p. 287).

Other Interesting Tidbits for Researchers and Clinicians

“Future research should also aim to identify what risk factors differentiate Aboriginal offenders from the general Aboriginal population. Again, it is important that these risk items are considered in light of systematic racism and disadvantage, which are directly linked to the pervasive and enduing impacts of colonization” (p. 288).

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Evaluator Differences in PCL-R Scores Suggest Need for Training

lhbDifferences in PCL-R scores between evaluators indicate some degree of variability in scoring attributable to evaluators, although these differences were less amongst evaluators who had received formal training on the PCL-R. This is the bottom line of a recently published article in Law and Human Behavior. Below is a summary of the research and findings as well as a translation of this research into practice.

Featured Article | Law and Human Behavior | 2014, Vol. 38, No. 4, 337-345

Evaluator Differences in Psychopathy Checklist-Revised Factor and Facet Scores


Marcus T. Boccaccini, Sam Houston State University
Daniel C. Murrie, University of Virginia
Katrina A. Rufino, Baylor College of Medicine/The Menninger Clinic
Brett O. Gardner, Sam Houston State University


Recent research suggests that the reliability of some measures used in forensic assessments—such as Hare’s (2003) Psychopathy Checklist-Revised (PCL-R)—tends to be weaker when applied in the field, as compared with formal research studies. Specifically, some of the score variability in the field is attributable to evaluators themselves, rather than the offenders they evaluate. We studied evaluator differences in PCL-R scoring among 558 offenders (14 evaluators) and found evidence of large evaluator differences in scoring for each PCL-R factor and facet, even after controlling for offenders’ self-reported antisocial traits. There was less evidence of evaluator differences when we limited analyses to the 11 evaluators who reported having completed a PCL-R training workshop. Findings provide indirect but positive support for the benefits of PCL-R training, but also suggest that evaluator differences may be evident to some extent in many field settings, even among trained evaluators.


evaluator differences, field reliability, rater agreement, Psychopathy Checklist-Revised, workshop training

Summary of the Research

PCL-R scores were analyzed for 558 offenders who had been evaluated for SVP (Sexually Violent Predator) civil commitment in Texas between 1999 and 2011 by 14 different evaluators to determine the degree of variability in scoring attributable to evaluators. Scores on the Antisocial (ANT) scale/subscales of the Personality Assessment Inventory (PAI) were used to provide an indication of the degree of psychopathy for these offenders in an attempt to tease apart evaluator differences in scoring the PCL-R.

“There were 558 offenders scored on the PCL-R by one of the 14 SVP evaluators. The mean age among offenders was 43.14 years (SD = 10.99). Offenders were identified as white (50.0%), black (32.4%), Hispanic (16.4%), or from another ethnic background (1.1%)” (p. 339).

“The mean PCL-R Total score across offenders and evaluators was 20.91 (SD = 8.15), which falls at about the 40th percentile among North American male offenders and somewhat below the mean of 24.2 for sexual offenders reported in the PCL-R manual. Factor 1 (M = 8.89, SD = 4.26), Facet 1 (M = 3.46, SD = 2.50), and Facet 2 (M = 4.85, SD = 2.20) scores were at or slightly above the mean compared to North American offenders, falling between the 50th and 60th percentiles. Factor 2 (M = 9.42, SD = 4.41), Facet 3 (M = 4.46, SD = 2.47), and Facet 4 (M= 5.02, SD = 2.59) were somewhat below the mean among North American offenders, falling between the 33rd to 45th percentiles” (p. 340).

A significant amount of variance was found when mean factor and facet scores for the PCL-R were examined by evaluator: “the mean PCL-R Total score assigned by an evaluator ranged from 13.79 (18th percentile) to 30.71 (88th percentile)…[and] there was also a large amount of variability in Factor 1 and Factor 2 scores, with mean Factor 1 scores ranging from the 24th (M = 4.80) to 90th (M = 13.42) percentiles and mean Factor 2 scores ranging from the 17th (M = 5.83) to 76th (M = 14.85) percentiles…[The data] suggest, however, that a small subset of outlying evaluators may be responsible for much of the variability” (p. 340).

The mean total, factor, and facet scores suggest a substantial amount of variability in PCL-R scores attributable to evaluators, but do not provide a clear quantifiable estimate of this variability; thus, the authors used multilevel linear modeling (MLM) to calculate and test for statistical significance the proportion of variance in PCL-R scores attributable to differences among evaluators.

Results of the MLM analyses indicated, “about 32% of the variance in PCL-R Total scores was attributable to differences among evaluators…[in addition, there was] a similar and large amount of variance attributable to evaluators for both Factor 1 (23%, p = .001) and Factor 2 (25%, p = .001) scores…the proportion of variance attributable to evaluators was smallest for Facet 2 (13%, p = .001) and largest for Facet 3 (24%, p = .001) and Facet 4 (19%, p = .001)” (p. 341).

PAI scores for the ANT scale/subscales were used to consider whether some evaluators had been assigned to score more antisocial and potentially psychopathic offenders than others. Results indicated that the offenders assigned to each evaluator tended to have similar levels of antisocial and psychopathic traits and that “differences in antisocial traits (i.e., ANT scores) cannot explain evaluator differences in PCL-R scoring” (p. 342).

“To examine the potential impact of having completed PCL-R training on evaluator differences, [the authors] reran the MLM models for the PCL-R using only scores from the 11 evaluators who reported having completed PCL-R training. Findings from this third set of PCL-R models yielded effects that were generally consistent with PCL-R field reliability research. Although there was still evidence of statistically significant evaluator differences for each PCL-R factor and facet score, the amount of variance attributable to evaluators was 20% or lower for each PCL-R score. In terms of absolute value, the amount of variance attributable to evaluators was larger for Factor 1 (17%) than Factor 2 (13%), and lowest for Facet 4 (9%)” (p. 342).

Translating Research into Practice

The authors found “evidence of evaluator differences in PCL-R scoring for each factor and facet score…and no evidence that these evaluator differences in PCL-R scoring were attributable to some evaluators being assigned to score a subset of more antisocial or psychopathic offenders than others. There was substantial variability in PCL-R scoring attributable to evaluators even after controlling for differences in PAI ANT scores” (p. 342).

“Overall, [these] findings add to the small but growing body of research suggesting that the reliability of PCL-R scores may be weaker in the field than in controlled research studies, particularly among sexual offenders…[and] they also reinforce concerns about potentially inaccurate scores influencing decisions about offenders” (p. 342).

“In practice, it may be that unreliability in PCL-R scoring is difficult to identify in any specific case and only becomes evident over time. In [this] study, evaluator differences were much smaller after [the authors] removed three outlying evaluators from [the] analyses” (p. 343).

“[The] findings of less variability in scoring among trained evaluators parallel those from a study of the predictive validity of PCL-R scores among Texas sexual offenders in which PCL-R scores assigned by a subset of prolific evaluators were stronger predictors of violent recidivism than scores assigned by less prolific evaluators” (p. 343).

“Together, findings of smaller evaluator differences and stronger predictive validity among subsets of trained and prolific evaluators provide indirect, but potentially promising support for the value of PCL-R training and evaluation experience…[these] findings suggest that there is a clear need for more research on the potential benefits of PCL-R training and experience” (p. 343).

Evaluators who use the PCL-R in practice should obtain the necessary training on the administration, scoring, and interpretation of this instrument and should remain cautious about deviating from the scoring criteria set out in the PCL-R manual.

Other Interesting Tidbits for Researchers and Clinicians

“Future evaluator differences research should consider the offender, evaluator, and evaluation characteristics that may explain some evaluator difference effects. It could be that evaluator differences are more evident among sexual offenders than nonsexual offenders, or among pedophilic sexual offenders than other sexual offenders, because these offenders may evoke stronger emotional reactions from some evaluators. It is also possible that the evaluator differences we have identified are limited to the relatively small pool of state-contracted evaluators conducting SVP evaluations in Texas. Or, that these Texas differences are limited to only a small subset of evaluators within this pool. Indeed, we were able to reduce evaluator difference effects by removing only three atypical evaluators. It is also possible that evaluator differences may only be evident among less experienced evaluators, or those with less formal PCL-R training. Our relatively small sample of evaluators and the limited information available about their training necessarily limits the conclusions we can draw about the potential benefits of completing a PCL-R training workshop. Because many evaluators cite workshop training as evidence of their competence in PCL-R administration and scoring, the field would benefit from studies designed to directly assess the pre- and post-workshop reliability of evaluators completing workshop training” (pp. 343-344).

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Call for Papers: North American Correctional and Criminal Justice Psychology Conference

NACCJPCJune 4-6, 2015 | Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

Correctional and Criminal Justice is a specialty area in psychology. It is not simply about taking what works for the general population and putting it to work within a correctional setting. It is about adapting psychology to the client, adapting to the organizations that correctional and criminal justice psychologists work for, and adapting to the systems that this field serves with the goal to protect society and to improve the quality of life of individuals who are far too often marginalized. As a specialty area in Psychology, we need ongoing training and education that meet our specific needs. Cooperative efforts between the Canadian Psychological Association, the American Psychological Association, and their respective Criminal Justice Sections put together the first and second North American Correctional and Criminal Justice Psychology Conferences in 2007 and 2011 to meet the needs of researchers in the field and the practitioners who daily face the challenge of a practice within the criminal justice system. Both conferences were a tremendous success and featured well over 200 presentations. I trust you will share our enthusiasm and join us for this conference in 2015.

The NACCJPC is the most important and interesting conference in the world on criminological and correctional psychology. The standard of sessions is extremely high and everyone will learn a great deal from attending this conference. I learned a lot from the conference that was held in the beautiful city of Ottawa and I urge all interested researchers to attend this conference.” –David P. Farrington, Emeritus Professor of Psychological Criminology, Cambridge University

Distinguish Keynote Speakers

  • Dr. Kirk Heilbrun Professor, Drexel University, United States of America
  • Dr. Ruth Mann, Head of Evidence and Offence Specialism, National Offender Management Service, United Kingdom
  • Dr. Devon Polaschek, Professor, School of Psychology, Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand
  • Dr. Kevin Douglas, Associate Professor, Simon Fraser University, Canada

Call for Papers

The submission portal is anticipated to open on October 1st 2014 with a December 1st deadline. In October simply follow the links on the website or Facebook page to submit your concurrent workshop, symposia, or posters presentations.

All submissions will be subject to a peer review process. Where the quantity of submissions exceeds time allocations, priority will be given based upon quality of the presentation and balance of program topics. Whenever possible symposia submissions not accepted due to scheduling limitations will be allowed to submit as a poster presentation.

Presentations will be scheduled at the discretion of the organizers. Every attempt will be made to provide ample time for presentations. Presenters should be aware that symposia time slots are not expected to exceed 1.5 hours and may be 1 hour in length depending on the quantity of submissions. Presenters will be provided with the length of time upon notification of acceptance.

Unless invited, presentations previously published or presented at a CPA or APA or other national professional/research organization event may not be presented unless they include substantial elaboration or new information.

For More Information

More information is available on the conference website or can be obtained by Following and Liking on Twitter or Facebook. The Call for Papers can be downloaded here.

Website: cpa.ca/naccjpc

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/205106602764/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/NACCJPC