The use of violence risk assessment instruments to estimate an offender’s likelihood of recidivism has become commonplace. However, questions abound regarding the cross-cultural validity of these tools, and whether ethnic differences can jeopardize their predictive accuracy. Furthermore, many static risk factors included in these tools are highly associated with race and class, potentially overestimating the risk scores of underprivileged minorities. The current study examined ethnic/cultural differences in the predictive validity of 10 commonly used historical risk factors, and whether certain race-correlated risk factors can be considered “proxies” for race. Caucasian, African American, and Hispanic adult ex-offenders (N = 270) completed a series of risk rating scales and reported lifetime engagement in criminal activity. While no risk factors emerged as proxies for race, several risk scores were found to misclassify ethnic minorities as high risk. These findings bear implications for the ethical use of risk assessment with cultural minority groups.
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Thesis advisor: Douglas, Kevin S.
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