Psychopathy and sex offender recidivism

Authored by: Mark E. Olver

Routledge International Handbook of Psychopathy and Crime

Print publication date:  August  2018
Online publication date:  August  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138085169
eBook ISBN: 9781315111476
Adobe ISBN:


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The psychopathy construct, more broadly speaking, has important clinical relevance in the assessment of sexual violence risk, prediction of sex offender recidivism, and management of risk to prevent recidivism and promote reintegration. Although the moniker “psychopathic sex offender” understandably strikes at the heart of fears and anxieties of therapists and community supervision officers, the majority of sex offenders in custody and on community supervision do not have exceptionally high PCL–R scores, and among those that do, not all are necessarily high risk for sexual violence or are fated to reoffend in a spectacular and horrific fashion. Although the PCL–R has high prognostic relevance for violent and general recidivism, research to date has demonstrated that it is a more modest predictor of sexual recidivism; the exception seems to be when high levels of psychopathy and sexual deviance co-exist, which the bulk of available literature has indicated serves to augment risk for future sexual violence. Importantly, assessment of psychopathy in tandem with the use of validated sexual violence risk assessment tools can be used to inform the assessment of risk and treatment intensity, identify treatment needs, and identify responsivity issues to be managed in sex offender treatment.

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