Abstract This study examined the accuracy of Static-2002, an actuarial risk tool designed to estimate the recidivism risk of sexual offenders (Hanson & Thornton, 2003).




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Static-2002



Predicting recidivism among sexual offenders: A multi-site study of Static-2002
R. Karl Hanson Leslie Helmus

Public Safety Canada

David Thornton

Sand Ridge Secure Treatment Centre
R. Karl Hanson

Corrections Research

Public Safety Canada

340 Laurier Ave., West

Ottawa, Ontario K1S 1Z3

Canada

Phone 613 991 2840

Email karl.hanson@ps-sp.gc.ca

Keywords: sex offenders, recidivism, prediction, Static-2002
Author note: The views expressed are those of the authors and not necessarily those of Public Safety Canada or the Wisconsin Department of Health Services. We would like to thank Howard Barbaree, Tony Beech, Susanne Bengtson, Jacque Bigras, Sasha Boer, Andy Haag, Leigh Harkins, Ray Knight, Calvin Langton, and Jean Proulx for permission to use their data, and being patient with our ongoing questions.

Abstract

This study examined the accuracy of Static-2002, an actuarial risk tool designed to estimate the recidivism risk of sexual offenders (Hanson & Thornton, 2003). Averaged across 8 distinct samples (5 Canadian, 1 U.S., 1 U.K., 1 Danish; total sample of 3,034), Static-2002 showed moderate predictive accuracy for sexual, violent, and general (any) recidivism (AUCs of .68, .71, and .70, respectively), and was more accurate than the risk tool most commonly used for sexual offenders (Static-99). There was more variation than would be expected by chance, however, in Static-2002’s ability to rank order the risk of sexual offenders, and in the observed recidivism rates per risk score. The lowest recidivism rates were observed in routine samples from the Correctional Service of Canada and the highest recidivism rates were observed in samples preselected to be high risk. The findings support the use of Static-2002 in applied evaluations with sexual offenders. The differences in recidivism rates across samples, however, present new challenges to evaluators wishing to use risk scores to estimate absolute recidivism rates.
Predicting recidivism among sexual offenders: A multi-site study of Static-2002
Actuarial risk tools are now routinely used in applied risk assessment with offenders (Archer, Buffington-Vollum, Stredny, & Handel, 2006). Such tools specify the factors to consider in the risk assessment, the method for combining the items into an overall score, and the expected recidivism rates associated with the scores (Dawes, Faust, & Meehl, 1989). For the prediction of sexual recidivism, Static-99 (Hanson & Thornton, 2000) is by far the most commonly used actuarial risk tool in Canada and the U.S. for treatment planning (McGrath, Cumming, & Burchard, 2003), community supervision (Interstate Commission for Adult Offender Supervision, 2007), and civil commitment evaluations (Jackson & Hess, 2007). As well, it is used in jurisdictions as diverse as Sweden, Belgium, Israel, Singapore, and Japan. Static-99 is also the most researched of all risk assessment tools for sex offenders, with moderate predictive accuracy (on average) among 63 replication studies (Hanson and Morton-Bourgon, in press).

Static-99 contains 10 items covering static, historical factors (such as age and prior offences) and can be reliably scored without advanced professional training. More complex risk assessment systems are available that may be more accurate than Static-99 for predicting sexual recidivism (e.g., Olver, Wong, Nicholaichuk, & Gordon, 2007; Thornton, 2002), and violent recidivism (e.g., G. T. Harris et al., 2003); however, the popularity of Static-99 demonstrates the widespread demand for cost-effective risk tools applicable to a wide range of sexual offenders.

Hanson and Thornton (2003) created Static-2002 as a potential improvement over Static-99. It was designed to have the same basic features of Static-99, namely, a brief actuarial measure for the prediction of sexual recidivism based on commonly available information; however, it was hoped that Static-2002 could address some of the weaknesses of Static-99.

Static-99 was created by merging two previously existing scales (RRASOR and Structured Anchored Clinical Judgement - SACJ-Min), which resulted in different definitions for different items (e.g., charges count for sexual offences, whereas only convictions count for non-sexual violence). With Static-2002, the authors attempted to standardize the coding rules by selecting the definitions with the strongest support in pilot studies. Furthermore, the 14 items were organized into five conceptually meaningful subscales to aid interpretation: age (at release), persistence of sexual offending (prior sentencing occasions for sexual offences, any juvenile arrest for a sexual offence, rate of sexual offending), deviant sexual interests (any non-contact sex offences, any male victim, young/unrelated victims), relationship to victims (any unrelated victim, any stranger victim), and general criminality (any prior involvement with the criminal justice system, prior sentencing occasions, any community supervision violation, years free prior to index sex offence, any prior non-sexual violence). It was also hoped that Static-2002 would be more accurate than Static-99 at predicting sexual and violent recidivism.

Most of the previous research on the accuracy of Static-99 and Static-2002 has focussed on the ability of these risk tools to differentiate offenders on their risk for recidivism. For example, predictive accuracy is routinely reported in terms of correlation coefficients, areas under receiving operator characteristics curves (AUC for ROC) or standardised mean differences (Cohen’s d). These indices describe the extent to which the recidivists are different from the non-recidivists, but provide no information about the absolute recidivism rates. Even when the AUCs are consistent across studies, it is possible for there to be meaningful differences in the observed recidivism rates (Mossman, 2006). Relatively little research has examined the stability of the observed recidivism rates for actuarial risk tools for sexual offenders (see Doren, 2004a, for an exception), and conventions have yet to be developed concerning the best ways to report predictive accuracy in terms of absolute recidivism rates.

At a broad level, observed recidivism rates are a function of the factors included in the scale as well as factors not measured in the scale (plus error). Some of the factors external to the scale involve relatively arbitrary decisions concerning research design and recidivism definitions (e.g., year of release, length of follow-up). However, there are other factors not included in the risk tool that should be (at least for a comprehensive evaluation of risk): namely, factors that add incrementally to the scale. When samples differ on these external (unmeasured) risk factors, different base rates of recidivism would be expected. These differences would persist even when the outcome is measured consistently for identical risk scores. Consequently, it is useful to separate base rates from discriminative accuracy when examining the stability of absolute recidivism rates.

The purpose of the present study is to compare the ability of Static-99 and Static-2002 to rank sexual offenders according to relative recidivism risk in diverse samples, and to assess the ability of Static-2002 to predict observed recidivism rates at 5 and 10 years post release. Logistic regression (Hosmer & Lemeshow, 2000) was used as the primary method of estimating absolute recidivism rates. One advantage of logistic regression is that it fits a constant term (B0), which is an estimate of the recidivism base rate, and B1, which estimates the average change in recidivism rates for adjacent scores of the risk tool (discriminative accuracy).

In the original development study, Static-2002 was slightly better than Static-99 for predicting sexual recidivism (AUC of .71 and .70, respectively) and violent recidivism (AUC of .71 and .69). There was considerable missing data in the developmental samples, however, and the authors recommended that further research be conducted before Static-2002 is used in applied assessments. That research has now been completed. The current study summarizes information on the predictive accuracy of Static-2002 by analysing a dataset created from all known Static-2002 recidivism studies.

Method

Measures

Static-2002 (Hanson & Thornton, 2003). Static-2002 is a 14-item1 actuarial measure that assesses recidivism risk of adult male sexual offenders. Offenders can be placed in one of five risk categories based on their total score (ranging from 0-14): low (0 - 2), low-moderate (3, 4), moderate (5, 6), moderate-high (7, 8), and high (9+; see Helmus, 2007).

Static-99 (Hanson & Thornton, 2000). Static-99 is a 10-item actuarial measure that assesses recidivism risk of adult male sexual offenders. Offenders can be placed in one of four risk categories based on their total score (ranging from 0-12): low (0, 1), moderate-low (2, 3), moderate-high (4, 5), and high (6+).
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