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Abstract: Current perspectives on risk assessment: What is it, what information does it provide, and how do we evaluate how accurate it is?


The pervasiveness of risk assessment in correctional decision-making necessitates a better understanding of what is being measured by risk scales and how to evaluate them. This presentation will discuss the nature of risk and risk scales/factors, the types of information risk scales provide, and what statistics are appropriate and inappropriate for assessing the accuracy of that information. The way forward in offender risk assessment is in improving our understanding of risk-relevant constructs and developing greater consistency in how we summarize and validate information from risk scales. This presentation is intended for both researchers and for clinicians who need to interpret and apply research findings in their work (e.g., those who may testify in court about their risk assessment practices).



L. Maaike Helmus, Ph.D. is the Director of Research for the Global Institute of Forensic Research (GIFR). Her research has focused on offender risk assessment, particularly regarding risk scale development and validation, and risk assessment for subgroups such as sex offenders, domestic violence offenders, and Aboriginal offenders. She is part of the development team for Static-99R, Static-2002R, BARR-2002R, STABLE-2007, ACUTE-2007, and the Risk of Administrative Segregation Tool (RAST), as well as being a certified trainer for Static-99R, Static-2002R, and the BARR-2002R. Dr. Helmus has diverse training experience, from teaching graduate level statistics courses to providing practical trainings for probation/parole officers, police, psychologists, and lawyers. Winner of the prestigious Governor General’s Gold Medal for her work in risk assessment, Dr. Helmus has been the recipient of numerous grants and awards from organizations including the Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers (ATSA) and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. She has also served on the Executive Boards of both the Criminal Justice Section of the Canadian Psychological Association and ATSA.