Offender Race and Clinician Decision-Making in Sexually Violent Predator Evaluations



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This study examined associations between offender race and evaluator decision-making in Sexually Violent Predator (SVP) evaluations. Participants were 393 incarcerated sexual offenders who were evaluated for civil commitment as SVPs by three evaluators in Texas between September of 2000 and August of 2018. Evaluators completed the Static-99R, a 10-item actuarial scale that is used to assess recidivism of risk in adult male sex offenders, and the PCL-R, a 20-item, clinician scored measure of interpersonal, affective, and behavioral traits associated with psychopathy as part of their assessment. Generally, evaluators determined if an offender met criteria for a behavioral abnormality that made them more likely to engage in a predatory act of sexual violence, provided diagnoses as appropriate, and made determinations regarding risk level. This study examined whether race moderated the relation between risk measure (i.e., Static99R and PCL-R) scores and decisions pertaining to behavioral abnormality findings, risk level, and diagnoses. There were differences in scoring of the PCL-R across race, with Black offenders scoring higher overall, though particularly on Facet 4 scores, whereas Static-99R scores were more robust across race. Race did moderate the relation between PCL-R Factor 2 and Facet 4 scores and risk, though this was only true when differentiating between low and moderate risk groups. Both Latino and White offenders in the low risk groups scored lower in these PCL-R domains, whereas Black offenders did not show a similar patterns. Further, White offenders who scored higher on the PCLR Facet 4 were more likely than Black or Latino offenders with similar scores to be diagnosed with a paraphilic disorder and be labeled as having a behavioral abnormality. Having mixed victim types, multiple diagnoses, and a greater number of victims were all associated with increased risk and likelihood of being found to have a behavioral abnormality, regardless of race. These findings and their implications are discussed in relation to victim type, victim gender, and racial disparities within the criminal justice and mental health systems.



Psychology, Clinical