Violence risk assessment practices in Israel: a preliminary survey investigation

Date08 April 2019
Published date08 April 2019
AuthorJay P. Singh,Rabeea Assy,Katrina I. Serpa
Subject MatterHealth & social care,Criminology & forensic psychology,Aggression, conflict & peace,Sociology,Gender studies,Gender violence,Political sociology, policy & social change,Social conflicts,War/peace
Violence risk assessment practices in
Israel: a preliminary survey investigation
Jay P. Singh, Rabeea Assy and Katrina I. Serpa
Purpose The purpose of this paper is to explore the violence risk assessment practices in Israel by social
workers, clinical criminologists, and marriage and family therapists using a Web-based survey.
Design/methodology/approach A Web-basedsurvey and participationletter were translatedinto Hebrew
and distributedto members of the Israel Associationof Social Workers, the IsraelSociety of Clinical Criminology
and the Israel Association for Marital and Family Therapyfollowing the Dillman Total Design Survey Method.
Findings The sample was composed of 34 professionals, who reported using structured instruments to
predict and manage the likelihood of violence in over half of their risk assessments over both their lifetime and
the past 12 months. Younger female respondents who entered their profession more recently were more
likely to use instruments during the risk assessment process. There appeared to be a trend toward
decreased use of actuarial instruments and increased use in structured professional judgment instruments.
Originality/value The first national survey of violence risk assessment practices by behavioral healthcare
professionals in Israel was conducted. This study revealed the risk assessment utility trends in Israel, finding
that compared to professionals in North America, South America, Europe, East Asia and Australia,
professionals in Israel conducted fewer risk assessments and used structured instruments less often,
highlighting concern about the lack of reliance on evidence-based techniques in the country.
Keywords Survey, Risk assessment, Healthcare, Israel, Mental health, Violence
Paper type Research paper
Recent research has established significant increases in the number of forensic beds in Western
countries (Priebe et al., 2008) as well as increasing incarceration rates in the majority of countries
worldwide (Walmsley, 2016). As the prevalence of violence among persons diagnosed with
mental illnesses and criminal offenders is increased compared to the general population (Durose
et al., 2014; Van Dorn et al., 2011), reliable and accurate methods of violence risk assessment
are increasingly necessary for public safety. Violence risk assessment refers to the process by
which professionals predict the likelihood of future harm to others (Skeem and Monahan, 2011).
Used in contexts including commitment, service plan development, sentencing, and release
decision-making, violence risk assessment methods are used in over 40 countries across five
continents (Singh et al., 2014). Which methods are used, how frequently, in what context, and by
whom differs between Western and Eastern countries (Singh et al., 2016).
Approaches to violence risk assessment
There are three principal approaches to violence riskassessment: unstructured clinicaljudgment,
actuarial assessment and structured professional judgment. Unstructured clinical judgment refers
to the assessment of violence risk without use of a manualized protocol. Relying on a variety of
methods( file review, self-reportand interviewing),the unstructured approachis convenient, flexible
and used by over 40 percent of clinicians internationally (Singh et al.,2016).However,the
unstructured approach has also been found to produce low rates of inter-rater reliability and
accuracy rates no better than chance, limiting its practical utility (Murray and Thomson, 2010).
Received 5 May 2018
Revised 13 August 2018
Accepted 14 August 2018
JPS was funded by the US
Fulbright Commission. This
sponsor had no role in the design
and conduct of the study;
collection, management, analysis
and interpretation of the data; or in
the preparation, review, or
approval of the manuscript. The
views expressed in this paper do
not represent those of the
Jay P. Singh is Visiting Scholar
at the Institute of Criminology,
University of Cambridge,
Cambridge, UK.
Rabeea Assy is based at
University of Haifa, Haifa, Israel.
Katrina I. Serpa is Training
Consultant at the Multi-Health
Systems Inc., Toronto,
VOL. 11 NO. 2 2019, pp.116-126, © Emerald Publishing Limited, ISSN 1759-6599 DOI 10.1108/JACPR-05-2018-0358

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