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Behav Sci Law. 2015 Feb;33(1):19-38. doi: 10.1002/bsl.2162.

The use of risk and need factors in forensic mental health decision-making and the role of gender and index offense severity.

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University of British Columbia & British Columbia Forensic Psychiatric Services Commission, British Columbia Mental Health and Substance Use Services.


Canadian legislation makes Review Boards (RBs) responsible for rendering dispositions for individuals found Not Criminally Responsible on account of Mental Disorder (NCRMD) after considering public safety, the mental condition of the accused, and his/her potential for community reintegration. We reviewed 6,743 RB hearings for 1,794 individuals found NCRMD in the three largest Canadian provinces to investigate whether items from two empirically supported risk assessment measures, the Historical Clinical Risk Management-20 and the Violence Risk Appraisal Guide, were considered. Less than half the items were included in expert reports or in RBs' reasons for dispositions, and consideration of these items differed according to gender and index offense severity of the accused. These items included evidence-based risk factors and/or legally specified criteria: mental health, treatment, and criminal history. These results illustrate the gap between research on risk factors and the integration of this evidence into practice. In particular, we recommend the implementation of structured measures to reduce the potential for clinicians to be unduly influenced by gender and offense severity.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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