Special Commission to Reduce the Recidivism of Sex Offenders
October 8, 2014, State House, Room 350
Materials provided or presented at Commission Meeting (all available at commissiononsexoffenderrecidivism.com):
Agenda for 10/8 Meeting
Draft Minutes from 9/16 Meeting
Proposed Draft Legislation to Change the Commission’s Dates, Charge, and Membership
Powerpoint Presentation given by Dr. Raymond Knight
Chair, William N. Brownsberger, Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on the Judiciary
Senator Joan Lovely
Maureen Gallagher, Director of Policy, Jane Doe, Inc.
Larni Levy, Esq., Committee for Public Counsel Services
Nancy Connolly, Psy.D., Program Director, Mentally Ill/Problematic Sexual Behavior Program of the Department of Mental Health
Kathy Betts, Assistant Secretary for Children, Youth, and Families
Raymond Knight, Ph.D., Gryzmish Professor of Human Relations, Department of Psychology, Brandeis University
Laurie L. Guidry, Psy.D., President, Center for Integrative Psychological Services, Inc., and President, Massachusetts Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers
Andrea Cabral, Secretary of Public Safety and Security
Edward J. Dolan, Commissioner, MA Probation Service
Robert Kinscherff, Ph.D., Esq., Associate Vice President for Community Engagement, Office of the President, and Teaching Faculty, Doctoral Clinical Psychology Program, Massachusetts School of Professional Psychology (sent designee)
Anne Connors, Chairperson, Sex Offender Registry Board (SORB member Maria Piccillo present)
Marian Ryan, Middlesex District Attorney (anticipated appointment) (sent designee)
Others in Attendance, Including Designees of Commissioners:
Joan Tabachnik, designee of Robert Kinscherff, Ph.D., Esq., Associate Vice President for Community Engagement, Office of the President, and Teaching Faculty, Doctoral Clinical Psychology Program, Massachusetts School of Professional Psychology
Peter Forbes, Department of Youth Services
Dianne Fasano, Deputy Commissioner of Probation, designated by Commissioner Edward Dolan for meeting
Steven O’Brien, Superintendent, Massachusetts Treatment Center
David Solet, General Counsel, Middlesex District Attorney’s Office
Maria Piccillo, Board Member, Sex Offender Registry Board
Lisa Sampson, Director, Research and Policy Analysis Division, Executive Office of Public Safety and Security
Georgia Critsley, Intergovernmental Relations Senior Manager, Trial Court
Keith MacFarland, House Chief Counsel for Joint Committee on the Judiciary
Laurie Myers, Founder, Community VOICES
Shaunna O’Connell, State Representative
Anne Johnson Landry, Committee Counsel and Policy Advisor, Office of Senator Brownsberger
Ann K. Lambert, Legislative Director, ACLU of Massachusetts
Pascua Scibelli, Committee for Public Counsel Services
Other members of the public joined the meeting to observe after the meeting had begun and introductions were made.
The Commissioners and attendees took turns introducing themselves.
The minutes from 9/16 were adopted upon a motion by Senator Brownsberger and a second by Dr. Knight.
Attorney Levy suggested keeping draft minutes off the website until the Commission approves them. Senator Brownsberger explained that even draft minutes are public records and need to be made available by request [within 10 days, pursuant to the open meeting law].
The Commission reviewed the draft language to change the Commission’s reporting date, to add 6 new members to the Commission (including two members of the minority party, two victims’ advocates, the chairman of the parole board or a designee, and the chief justice of the trial court or a designee), and to change the charge such that the Commission review (rather than “develop”) authorized risk assessment protocols for sexual offenders. The Commission voted unanimously, among all members present and voting, to adopt this proposed language. Senator Brownsberger explained that he would work to have it included in an advancing legislative vehicle, possibly the supplemental budget, which was expected to advance soon.
Representative O’Connell voiced the concern that the Commission was meeting without all members appointed.
Senator Brownsberger suggested that a Commission proceeding without all members appointed was not uncommon but would entertain a motion from a member of the Commission to adjourn and resume its work once all members were appointed.
Secretary Cabral agreed that it was not uncommon for a Commission to start its work without all members appointed.
Representative O’Connell indicated that she would like to be a member of the Commission but could not be until the legislation changing the charge and membership moved forward, and that in her experience this was uncommon.
Dr. Knight explained that the Commission’s meetings were open to the public and the Commission would be unlikely to vote on any substantive recommendations for a while.
Ms. Myers pointed out that unappointed members would be missing out on the conversation.
As no sitting member moved to adjourn the meeting, the Commission moved forward with the meeting.
Representative O’Connell asked who had not been appointed. Senator Brownsberger said that a good many members had been appointed and that Anne could do the math to determine who had yet to be appointed. Attorney Landry explained that no House members had been appointed and they were awaiting confirmation of the appointment of District Attorney Ryan, who they fully expected to be appointed.
Dr. Guidry pointed out that risk assessment is critical to focus resources on high-risk offenders to be more effective in managed risk.
Dr. Knight, in setting up his presentation, pointed out that proper use of risk assessment could help to reduce recidivism.
Dr. Knight gave a PowerPoint presentation on the tiering of sex offenders using risk of recidivism methods to assess risk [available at http://commissiononsexoffenderrecidivism.com/?p=97]. He pointed out that mechanical actuarial predictions are equal or superior to clinical judgment 94% of the time.
Secretary Cabral questioned how sex offenders’ risk of recidivism could be assessed when so many sex offenses go unreported. Dr. Knight argued that the consistency of results using data derived from confidential or anonymous computerized inventories with results gathered from criminal records suggests that while not perfect, information from each source captures real behavior and can serve as reasonable measurements.
Senator Brownsberger asked whether it is true that clinicians with more information draw conclusions with lower predictive value. Dr. Knight explained that more information will often further reduce accuracy because not all information the clinicians are getting and using is predictive.
Secretary Cabral asked if there are challenges to an instruments’ validity in court. Dr. Knight explained that yes, there are regular challenges and experts have to have the data to back their instruments up. They have to defend the reliability and the validity of the instruments they use.
Attorney Solet asked if clinicians would be better equipped than an algorithm to determine if people are lying. Dr. Knight said that people are not well-equipped to tell if people are lying and clarified that clinicians remain a part of the process when using mechanical actuarials.
During a part of the presentation, Dr. Knight explained that a possible disadvantage of Oregon’s model of using a standard actuarial was the need to standardize the measure on the local/state sample. Secretary Cabral asked what the impact of using a local/state environment adjustment would be. Dr. Knight explained that when instruments are normed on local samples they tend to predict better.
As part of his presentation, Dr. Knight explained a strategy for fixing current Massachusetts SORB criteria for adult males. Ms. Myers asked which clinicians would be used under the proposal and if there were no standards for them. Dr. Knight explained that rather than who the evaluators were would be how good their training would be.
Attorney Levy asked how long this proposal would take to put in place- 3, 5, or 10 years? Dr. Knight said that the reliability (where two assessments were determined to be rated consistently across raters) could be determined reasonably quickly- but this would not indicate that they were predictive. Reliability could happen within six months of review with funding for students.
Dr. Knight explained that the best predictive models currently being used in research have AUC typically between .6 and .7. An AUC of .5 is chance and one of .8 would explain 60% of variance. Dr. Knight pointed out that in research when someone develops a measurement it is important that it be independently verified.
In responding to a question about the use of actuarials for civil commitment, Dr. Knight admitted that he was not a proponent of civil commitment and the predictive strength of our measures is not sufficient to commit someone on the probability that he will offend.
Board Member Piccillo explained that she was not certain that SORB was actually using the Static 99R assessment, as Dr. Knight’s presentation asserted. Dr. Knight indicated that he was told this when he presented to SORB. He did not have data on this. If they have not and the Static 99R were used as it was in Oregon, then all offenders would have to be rated on the instrument.
Senator Brownsberger explained that time was running out and that the next meeting could begin with a brief overview of the presentation on how to assess sex offenders and to continue with a conversation about the presentation, and to conclude with the presentation on juvenile offenders, if time allowed.
The meeting of the Commission adjourned with an agreement to meet again on October 22, 2014, from 9-11 am.
Website maintained by the Office of State Senator William N. Brownsberger, Chair. Contact Anne Johnson Landry with any questions at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 617-722-1280.
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