Handbook of Psychology in Legal Contexts

By David Carson; Ray Bull | Go to book overview

Chapter 2.2
Violence Risk: From
Prediction to Management

Kirk Heilbrun

Drexel University, USA


INTRODUCTION

There has been enormous progress in violence risk assessment during the last decade. Much of this progress has been seen in the improved capacity to accurately identify individuals at high risk for future violent behavior, in populations including adults with severe mental illness (Monahan et al., 2001; Steadman et al., 1998), correctional populations (Douglas and Webster, 1999; Andrews and Bonta, 1995), mentally disordered offenders (Webster et al., 1997; Quinsey et al., 1998), and sexual offenders (Hanson, 1998). Associated with these advances have been both conceptual changes (Monahan and Steadman, 1994a; Steadman et al., 1994) and implications for improved practice (Dvoskin and Heilbrun, 2001).

The term 'risk assessment' may be construed narrowly, to describe the process of identifying risk of future violence and enhancing the accuracy of predictions of such future violence. It may also be considered more broadly, to include the areas of risk management (identifying and delivering interventions to reduce the risk of future violent behavior), decision-making (drawing conclusions and determining consequences in light of the information obtained in the two previous steps), and risk communication (describing the process and outcome of the entire assessment process). Whether 'risk assessment' is considered broadly or narrowly, however, it is important to consider the interrelationship of these four areas.

The great majority of work in risk assessment during the last decade has been focused on prediction and risk level classification. However, there has been an increasing recognition during recent years of the importance of risk management, both as a frequent priority of legal decision-makers, clinicians, and policy-makers, and an important consequence of the larger assessment process (Carson, 1994; Heilbrun, 1997).

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