Risk assessment of criminal offenders in Ghana : An investigation of the discriminant validity of the HCR-20V3

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Original languageEnglish
Article number101458
Journal / PublicationInternational Journal of Law and Psychiatry
Online published5 Jul 2019
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2019


The frequency with which assessment for risk of criminal offending is requested across mental health and criminal justice systems in Western countries is historically unprecedented. However, information concerning risk assessment practices and research in Sub-Saharan Africa is virtually nonexistent. In filling this gap, the present study discusses the prospects and challenges of risk assessment for criminal offending in Ghana, focusing on the criminal justice system, mental health system, and institutional record keeping. Secondly, data obtained from interviewing prisoners, their parents/legal guardians, and prison officers were used to score the Historical-Clinical-Risk Management-20 version 3 (HCR-20V3) to discriminate between recidivists (n = 60) and non-recidivists (n = 60). The results reveal significant and positive correlations between HCR-20V3 ratings and recidivism that ranged from 0.35 (clinical presence) to 0.69 (historical relevance). The area under curve (AUC) values of the HCR-20 ratings similarly ranged from 0.69 (clinical presence ratings) to 0.88 (historical presence ratings). The historical presence and relevance ratings achieve good and a near-balanced sensitivity and specificity (e.g., 75 versus 88), with the latter also adding incrementally to the discrimination. The clinical and risk management ratings, however, did not add incremental validity to the discrimination. Although the exclusion of the items measuring mental and personality disorders, the small sample size and the use of retrospective design have the potential to undermine the findings reported here, this preliminary study on structured risk assessment in Ghana demonstrates the feasibility of administering risk assessment instruments by interviewing multiple informants.

Research Area(s)

  • Africa, Criminal offenders, Ghana, HCR-20V3, Recidivism, Risk assessment