Despite the continued growth of adolescent risk assessment tools, we do not know how these tools are being used in adolescent court cases or how this information influences legal decision making. To address this gap, we reviewed 50 Canadian, American, and international adolescent offender cases using the Structured Assessment of Violence Risk in Youth or Youth Level of Service/Case Management Inventory. The results confirm that adolescent risk assessment tools are primarily introduced during sentencing or adult transfer proceedings. Judges identified the specific risk and protective factors of youth in 36.2% and 19.0% of cases, respectively. In terms of legal decision making, the risk assessment was either directly or indirectly referred to in 76.0% of cases; however, judges most often placed some weight on the risk assessment as a part of an enumerated list of other important factors. Although risk assessments were generally considered admissible in these cases, some legal concerns were raised, particularly with the use of risk assessments to guide sentencing decisions.
Remorse has long been important to the juvenile justice system. However, the nature of this construct has not yet been clearly articulated, and little research has examined its relationships with other theoretically and legally relevant variables. The present study was intended to address these issues by examining relationships among remorse, psychopathology, and psychopathy in a sample of adolescent offenders (N = 97) using the theoretically and empirically established framework of guilt and shame (Tangney & Dearing, 2002). Findings indicated that shame was positively related to behavioural features of psychopathy, whereas guilt was negatively related to psychopathic characteristics more broadly. In addition, shame was positively associated with numerous mental health problems whereas guilt was negatively associated with anger, depression, and anxiety. These results provide empirical support for theory that psychopathy is characterized by lack of remorse (e.g., Hare, 1991), and also underscore shame and guilt as potentially important treatment targets for adolescent offenders.
Literature on risk factors for recidivism among juveniles who have sexually offended (JSOs) is limited. In addition, there have been no studies published concerning protective factors among this population. The purpose of this study was to examine the relationship of risk and protective factors to sexual and nonsexual recidivism among a sample of 193 male JSOs (mean age = 15.26). Youth were followed for an average of 7.24 years following discharge from a residential sex offender treatment program. The risk factor opportunities to reoffend, as coded based on the ERASOR (Worling & Curwen, 2001), was associated with sexual recidivism. Several risk factors (e.g., prior offending; peer delinquency) were associated with nonsexual recidivism. No protective factors examined were associated with sexual recidivism, although strong attachments and bonds as measured by the SAVRY (Borum et al., 2006) was negatively related to nonsexual recidivism. These findings indicate that risk factors for nonsexual recidivism may be consistent across both general adolescent offender populations and JSOs, but that there may be distinct protective factors that apply to sexual recidivism among JSOs. Results also indicate important needs for further research on risk factors, protective factors, and risk management strategies for JSOs.
The Antisocial Process Screening Device (APSD) is a well-supported tool for assessing psychopathic features in youth. However, most research with the APSD has been derived from clinical and forensic samples comprised mainly of male Caucasian and African American adolescents. In this prospective study, the incremental and predictive validity of the self-report APSD for violent and non-violent offending was examined in an ethnically diverse community sample of male and female youth (N = 335) aged 12 to 14. High-school students from a moderate sized city in Western Canada completed the self-report APSD and then completed the Self-Report of Offending 6 months later. Receiver Operating Characteristics analysis indicated that APSD total and subscale scores were predictive of violent and non-violent offending at 6-month follow-up with moderate to large effect sizes. In addition, total scores on the APSD added incremental predictive utility above and beyond traditional criminogenic predictors of youth offending (i.e., prior offending, delinquent peer affiliation, poor school achievement, substance use, low parental monitoring). Although sex differences emerged in the predictive utility of the Impulsivity subscale of the APSD vis-à-vis violent offending, sex did not moderate the relationship between APSD total, Narcissism, or Callous/Unemotional scores and offending. In addition, the predictive utility of the APSD did not vary as a function of the youth’s ethnic background. These findings suggest that: (1) the self-report APSD may have utility for risk or threat assessment with normative school populations, (2) APSD findings from higher risk samples generalize to a lower risk sample of high-school youth, and (3) predictive utility of APSD total scores do not differ across male and female Caucasian and ethnic minority youth.
Theories of procedural justice suggest that individuals who experience respectful and fair legal decision-making procedures are more likely to believe in the legitimacy of the law, and, in turn, are less likely to reoffend. However, few studies have examined these relationships in youth. To begin to fill this gap in the literature, in the current study the authors studied 92 youth (67 male, 25 female) on probation regarding their perceptions of procedural justice and legitimacy, and then monitored their offending over the subsequent six months. Results indicated that perceptions of procedural justice predicted self-reported offending at three months but not at six months, and that youths’ beliefs about the legitimacy of the law did not mediate this relationship. Furthermore, procedural justice continued to account for unique variance in self-reported offending over and above the predictive power of well-established risk factors for offending (i.e., peer delinquency, substance abuse, psychopathy, and age at first contact with the law). Theoretically, the current study provides evidence that models of procedural justice developed for adults are only partially replicated in a sample of youth; practically, this research suggests that by treating adolescents in a fair and just manner, justice professionals may be able to reduce the likelihood that adolescents will reoffend, at least in the short term.
Several risk assessment tools, including the Juvenile Sex Offender Assessment Protocol-II (Prentky & Righthand, 2003), the Estimate of Risk of Adolescent Sexual Offense Recidivism (Worling & Curwen, 2001), the Juvenile Sexual Offense Recidivism Risk Assessment Tool-II (Epperson, ralston, Fowers, DeWitt, & Gore, 2006), and the Static-99 (Hanson & Thornton, 1999), have been used to assess reoffense risk among adolescents who have committed sexual offenses. Given that research on these tools has yielded somewhat mixed results, we empirically synthesized 33 published and unpublished studies involving 6,196 male adolescents who had committed a sexual offense. We conducted two separate meta-analyses, first with correlations and then with AUCs. Total scores on each of the tools significantly predicted sexual reoffending, with aggregated correlations ranging from .12 - .20 and aggregated area under the receiver operating characteristic curve (AUC) scores ranging from .64 - .67. In many cases, however, heterogeneity across studies was moderate to high. There were no significant differences between tools, and although the Static-99 was developed for adults, it achieved similar results as the adolescent tools. To help interpret these findings, results are compared to other meta-analyses of risk tools used in the area of violence risk assessment and in other fields.
Although many adolescent risk assessment tools include an emphasis on dynamic factors, little research has examined the extent to which these tools are capable of measuring change. In this article, we outline a framework to evaluate a tool’s capacity to measure change. This framework includes: (1) measurement error and reliable change, and (2) sensitivity (i.e., internal, external, and relative sensitivity). We then used this framework to evaluate the Structured Assessment of Violence Risk in Youth (SAVRY) and Youth Level of Service/Case Management Inventory (YLS/CMI). Research assistants conducted 509 risk assessments with 146 adolescents on probation (101 male, 45 female), who were assessed every 3 months over a 1-year period. Internal sensitivity was partially supported, as a modest proportion of youth showed changes over time. External sensitivity (i.e., the association between change scores and reoffending) was also partially supported. In particular, 22% of the associations between change scores and any and violent reoffending were significant at a 6-month follow-up. However, only one change score (i.e., Peer Associations) remained significant after the Bonferroni correction was applied. Finally, relative sensitivity was not supported, as the SAVRY and YLS/CMI was not more dynamic than the Psychopathy Checklist: Youth Version (PCL:YV). Specifically, the 1-year rank-order stability coefficients for the SAVRY, YLS/CMI, and PCL:YV Total Scores were .78, .75, and .76, respectively. Although the SAVRY and YLS/CMI hold promise, further efforts may help to enhance sensitivity to short-term changes in risk.
Although the Juvenile Sex Offender Assessment Protocol-II (J-SOAP-II) and the Structured Assessment of Violence Risk in Youth (SAVRY) include an emphasis on dynamic, or modifiable factors, there has been little research on dynamic changes on these tools. To help address this gap, we compared admission and discharge scores of 163 adolescents who attended a residential, cognitive-behavioral treatment program for sexual offending. Based on reliable change indices, one-half of youth showed a reliable decrease on the J-SOAP-II Dynamic Risk Total Score and one-third of youth showed a reliable decrease on the SAVRY Dynamic Risk Total Score. Contrary to expectations, decreases in risk factors and increases in protective factors did not predict reduced sexual, violent nonsexual, or any reoffending. In addition, no associations were found between scores on the Psychopathy Checklist: Youth Version and levels of change. Overall, the J-SOAP-II and the SAVRY hold promise in measuring change, but further research is needed.
Although experts recommend regularly reassessing adolescents' risk for violence, it is unclear whether reassessment improves predictions. Thus, in this prospective study, we tested three hypotheses as to why reassessment might improve predictions, namely the shelf-life, dynamic change, and familiarity hypotheses. Research assistants (RAs) rated youth on the Structured Assessment of Violence Risk in Youth (SAVRY) and the Youth Level of Service/Case Management Inventory (YLS/CMI) every three months over a one-year period, conducting 624 risk assessments with 156 youth on probation. We then examined charges for violence and any offence over a two-year follow-up period, and youths' self-reports of reoffending. Contrary to the shelf-life hypothesis, predictions did not decline or expire over time. Instead, time-dependent area under the curve scores remained consistent across the follow-up period. Contrary to the dynamic change hypothesis, changes in youth's risk total scores, compared to what is average for that youth, did not predict changes in reoffending. Finally, contrary to the familiarity hypothesis, reassessments were no more predictive than initial assessments, despite RAs' increased familiarity with youth. Before drawing conclusions, researchers should evaluate the extent to which youth receiving the usual probation services show meaningful short-term changes in risk and if so, whether risk assessment tools are sensitive to these changes.
Psychostimulant drug use is commonly associated with drug-related infection, including the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). Both psychostimulant use and HIV infection are known to damage brain white matter and impair cognition. To date, no study has examined white matter integrity using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) in chronic psychostimulant users with comorbid HIV infection, and determined the relationship of white matter integrity to cognitive function.
Twenty-one subjects (mean age 37.5 ± 9.0 years) with a history of heavy psychostimulant use and HIV infection (8.7 ± 4.3 years) and 22 matched controls were scanned on a 3T MRI. Fractional anisotropy (FA) values were calculated with DTI software. Four regions of interest were manually segmented, including the genu of the corpus callosum, left and right anterior limbs of the internal capsule, and the anterior commissure. Subjects also completed a neurocognitive battery and questionnaires about physical and mental health.
The psychostimulant using, HIV positive group displayed decreased white matter integrity, with significantly lower FA values for all white matter tracts (p < 0.05). This group also exhibited decreased cognitive performance on tasks that assessed cognitive set-shifting, fine motor speed and verbal memory. FA values for the white matter tracts correlated with cognitive performance on many of the neurocognitive tests.
White matter integrity was thus impaired in subjects with psychostimulant use and comorbid HIV infection, which predicted worsened cognitive performance on a range of tests. Further study on this medical comorbidity is required.