Wednesday, 26 May 2010

What constitutes Risk?

I'm A "High Risk offender" apparently. This means that, according to the best Probation Crystal Ball gazers, there is a high risk of my reoffending in the next five years.

But what does that really mean?

Well, firstly, it's the opinion of someone who, at the time, (back in 2007) had only spoken to me for some 75 minutes, and read through the court papers. It's an opinion based on inaccurate information, and a Research tool called the "Risk Matrix 2000" together with a computerised tool called the OASys (Offender Assessment System).

I have no problem with research tools being used to assess risk, as long as they have statistically relevant results, and are used correctly. And also, as long as the results are being interpreted in a meaningful way.

Now, the OASys first. OASys assesses many static and dynamic risk factors. These include Accommodation, Employment, Finances, Relationships, Drugs, Alcohol, Thinking, Attitudes, and health. Each item gets a score, and these scores are then weighted to give a final score between 0 and 168, though It's not possible to score any less than 12. According to OASys, you are a low risk offender if you score less than 44, a medium risk of you score between 44 and somewhere in the 60's. High risk is up to about 120, and very high risk is the final bracket up to a potential score of 168.

My OASys was 41! Which makes me a low risk, right? No - Apparently I'm likely to forget I was in prison, or even an offender, and repeat my behaviour in future. So as a result, the assessing Probation Officer made a judgement call that my risk of reconviction was therefore High!

Now to the RM2000. This does the same job as OASys, but is specifically targeted as Sexual Offences. Now, my RM2000 states I am a medium risk of reoffending. But that's because the assessor stated that my offences were against strangers, and non-contact offences; both increase my risk. And both are inaccurate, according to the person who designed the tool.

A stranger is a person you did not know 24 hours before the offences - that doesn't apply in my case. And non-contact does not count for internet-based offences. So, as a result, my "medium" score drops to "low" again. But, yet again, the opinion of the Probation Officer is that the RM2000 score is wrong, and my risk of reoffending is high.

Now, lets define what a High Risk of reoffending is.

If you are at low risk of reoffending, then there is less than a 5% chance that they will reoffend in the following 5 years. Medium means 5 to 13%, high means 13 to 26% and very high means 26 to 50% that a further offence will be committed in the five hears following release.

So there is a better than 74% likelihood that a High Risk offender will not re-offend in the five years following his release from custody!

Now, remembering what I said - the RM2000 said I was Medium risk - there's an 85% chance that I won't re-offend in the next 5 years, even when they did it wrongly.

And Low risk means that there is less than a 1 in 20 chance of my re-offending at all (any offence) in the next 5 years!

I have a feeling that Probation's Crystal Ball is faulty. Or, perhaps, by listing me as High Risk, they get more money for harassing... oops, I mean Managing me?

It's even better when they come to risk of harm. But I'll save that for another day!

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