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Abstract: The prediction of sexual recidivism: current uncertainties and future directions

Sex offender risk assessment tools assist in the identification and management of individuals at risk of recidivism upon release from secure settings. Due to the potential utility of such tools, researchers have developed many risk assessment measures, the manuals for which promise high rates of construct and predictive validity. However, there are a number of challenges involved with the accurate prediction of low base rate behaviors such as sexual recidivism. In this symposium, the most popular sex offender risk assessment tools will be examined with special attention on their utility in the face of low base rate limitations. The findings of an updated meta-analysis on sex offender risk assessment tools will elucidate the accuracy of such instruments in individuals of different genders, ethnicities, and ages as well as across lengths of follow-up and settings. Promising new approaches such as stepped risk assessment strategies will be discussed, and future directions will be discussed with an emphasis on real-world applicability and grass-roots research efforts.


Jay P Singh, Ph.D., is a Post-Doctoral Fellow in the Mental Health Law and Policy Department. He received his BS in Clinical Psychology and a BA in Child Development from Tufts University, and completed his graduate studies in psychiatry at the University of Oxford under the supervision of Dr. Seena Fazel. Prior to coming to FMHI, Dr. Singh served as a clinical associate at Yale University, where he assisted in conducting a controlled trial of Social Problem Solving Training (SPST) in the Connecticut Youth Justice System under the mentorship of Drs. Elena Grigorenko and John Chapman. Dr. Singh also served as a practicum student in the Obsessive Compulsive Disorder Institute at McLean Hospital, a psychiatric facility in Belmont, Massachusetts.Dr. Singh’s primary research interest is forensic risk assessment, the attempt to predict the likelihood of future violence in order to identify those at greatest need of intervention. The widespread, often legally required use of structured risk assessment tools to aid in this pursuit necessitates the regular and high-quality review of the evidence base concerning their ability to accurately identify individuals who will go on to commit crimes and, perhaps equally as important, their ability to identify those who will not. Towards this end, Dr. Singh’s recent research has used systematic review and meta-analytic methodology to explore a number of major issues concerning the utility of forensic risk assessment tools. In addition, Dr. Singh is actively involved in the development of novel statistical methodologies for measuring the predictive validity of structured risk instruments as well as tool construction. Dr. Singh also has an interest in the nexus between forensic psychiatry and forensic epidemiology, using population-based datasets to inform both policy and practice. Dr. Singh’s prior research has been published in peer-reviewed journals such as Schizophrenia Bulletin, Clinical Psychology Review, and Criminal Justice and Behavior. He has also co-authored a college-level textbook on approaches to behavior and classroom management, written book chapters on topics concerning forensic psychiatry, and presented his research at international conferences. Dr. Singh has been the recipient of numerous awards from professional organizations including the American Psychology-Law Society, the Royal College of Psychiatrists, the European Congress on Violence in Clinical Psychiatry, the Society for Research in Child Development, and the Society for Research in Adolescence. He has also taught courses for the University of Oxford, Tufts University, the Washington International Studies Council, St. Clare’s Liberal Arts College, and Oxbridge Academic Programs.