Violence and Crime
A good deal of my research, and that of my students, focuses on understanding violence, and assessing its risk among forensic and civil psychiatric patients, and criminal offenders. We are interested in learning more about the relationship between mental illness and violence, and that factors that place some people with mental illnesses at high risk for violence. Toward that end, studies are being conducted within samples of forensic and civil psychiatric patients that involve comprehensive pre-release assessments, as well as community follow-ups. The goal is to measure and understand the role that a variety of violence risk factors play in elevating persons’ risk for violence in the future.
Another theme that cuts across research studies is ‘dynamic risk,’ or understanding which risk factors are more, or less, changeable. Such factors are most likely to be promising factors to focus upon in risk reduction or management efforts.
In addition, we conduct research on the predictive properties of violence risk assessment instruments. Two of the larger projects currently underway on this topic include revising the HCR-20 Violence Risk Assessment Scheme, and analyzing large, aggregate datasets on the HCR-20 (N = 4000+) culled from over a dozen countries.
More generally, I have been involved in the development of a model of violence risk assessment called “Structured Professional Judgment,” and specific instruments within the SPJ model, such as the HCR-20.
More recently, my research has branched out to include not only risk of violence to others, but risk of self-harm, suicide, and being the victim of violence. All such adverse outcomes are over-represented among persons with mental illnesses, and they share common risk factors. However, little is known exactly about what those common (and unique) risk factors are. I am the Team Leader of an 11-person, 7-country Team called “Risk Reduction in Mental Health” (funded by the Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research) Our goal is to establish a program of research that will attempt to disentangle what these common and unique risks are. In addition, we are interested in the concept of ‘dynamic risk,’ as explained above, in this context.
Finally, some of my students and I are interested in the decision-making element to violence risk assessment. That is, what elements of a decision-making system facilitate good quality judgments about the risk for violence? This research is being conducted within a “Structured Professional Judgment” framework, and is informed by principles from the decision-making literature.