WASHINGTON (CBS DC) – A new study says that predicting how likely a psychopath is to commit another crime after being freed from jail is ‘no more than chance’.
The study, led by Jeremy Coid of the forensic psychiatry research unit at Queen Mary University of London, found risk score tools are only about 46 percent accurate on how likely psychopathic convicts are to kill, rape or assault again.
It leads him to suggest judges and probation officers should set their decisions minimally by tests warning clinicians who carry out classifications of criminals by these tests should be aware of prisoners “severe limitations”.
Also, Coid suggests that clinicians make sure prisoners undergo comprehensive psychiatric diagnosis before any risk assessment is finalized.
“If you apply these [tests] to somebody who is a psychopath, they’re utterly useless, you might as well toss a coin,” Coid explained to the Voice of America.
The findings in the study could have major implications for risk assessment in criminal justice systems, Coid shared.
“There are increasing expectations of public protection from violent behavior, and psychiatrists can be seriously criticized if they make wrong decisions,” he said.
Coid analyzed data from 1,396 male prisoners in England and Wales who were interviewed between six and 12 months before their release who were serving sentences of two or more years for sexual or violent offenses.
They were assessed for depression, personality disorders, symptoms of schizophrenia, drug and alcohol dependence, along with being measured for psychopathy on a reputable scale.
Among the three different re-offending risk assessment tools used before prisoners release, data on their re-offending rates after being released was added to the study. It showed that the accuracy among the psychopaths was below 50 percent.
The tools were only about 60 percent correct when it came to prisoners diagnosed with schizophrenia and depression.
“The easy solution is to be highly restrictive on who is released, and be risk averse. However, even for serious offenders, most will be released at some stage and someone has to carry out a risk assessment,” he explained to Voice of America.