Reflections on Dangerousness and Its Prediction -- a Truly Tantalizing Task?
Medicine and Law 2002; 21(3): 495-520
Risk or dangerousness is a problem which, of its very nature, must occupy the minds of all mental health and law enforcement professionals. Papers and research studies without number have attempted to define its extent and constituent elements and plumb the secrets of its assessment. Defining the tools and skills needed to analyze and predict dangerousness is a key contribution to helping psychiatrists and lawyers take their critical decisions on compulsory hospitalization, issuing or refusing a gun or driving license, etc. Members of other professions too have not only to decide whether or not to curtail an individual's civil rights but to be able to put forward rational and coherent grounds for their decision. And yet time after time mistaken decisions are made, frequently causing the subject of the decision unnecessary suffering and sometimes leading to a tragic outcome. The difficulty of risk assessment is its complexity, the result of a multitude of contributing and interacting variables. The 'dangerous person' does not have a single profile: there is no individual who under certain circumstances cannot become dangerous. That being so, the focus of our study must not be the factors capable of making a person violent but correctly managing the circumstances and situations in which violence can occur. For the purposes of this paper we concern ourselves only with the physical aspects of dangerousness. Although the risk we analyze here is bound up with an act of violence, we must keep in mind that dangerousness and violence are two separate concepts. After reviewing existing theory and current knowledge on risk assessment and prediction, we shall describe how the Israeli judicial and legislative systems deal with risk and attempt the task of forecasting the use of violence in a divided society in the throes of modernization. To close we propose an explorative study, designed to develop a short- and medium-range risk assessment instrument.
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Bauer, Arie; Rosca, Paula; Grinshpoon, Alexander; Khawaled, Razek; Mester, Roberto; Yoffe, Rinat; Ponizovsky, Alexander M. (2007-01)
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