n Acta Criminologica: Southern African Journal of Criminology - Actuarial based offender assessment : an evaluation of the reliability of the Self-Appraisal Questionnaire (SAQ)

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The South African Department of Correctional Services (DCS) redirected its strategic focus towards the transformation of prisons, with specific emphasis on the rehabilitation of offenders and the delivery of appropriate needs-based programmes as part of a holistic sentence planning strategy. These objectives are related to the Risk-Need-Responsivity (RNR) model that is contextualised within a general personality and cognitive social learning theory of criminal conduct, based upon the principles of risk, need and responsivity. It is proposed that sound actuarial assessments need to be used together with clinical approaches to enhance the prediction and control of correctional populations within an integrated approach to risk assessment.

The predictive utility and structured decision making offered by such an approach is embodied in the Self-Appraisal Questionnaire (SAQ). It is, therefore, imperative that the SAQ be evaluated through empirical research as it accommodates dynamic criminogenic risk factors that are potential indicators for treatment and risk reduction, the probable risk of reoffending and the threat that such risk poses. The SAQ is based on, and has been designed to improve the prediction of criminal behaviour, to assist in the assessment of risk and the identification of factors that could be addressed by programming or other intervention. It focuses on the predominant areas identified by research on recidivism to gain a clear identification of offenders' needs and helps to guide the selection of appropriate institutional security levels and appropriate intervention programmes for each individual.
The SAQ was administered on two separate occasions to a total of 110 high-risk male offenders in South Africa in 2007 who agreed to be assessed by the author making use of the SAQ. The completed questionnaires were computerised making use of the Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS) and analysed in terms of the reliability and interrelated measurement validity of the instrument which demands consistency over time. Temporal stability is the consistency of a set of measurements over time with the same instrument (test-retest), based upon the correlational relationship between test statistics obtained at two successive time periods from the same research respondents. The overall alpha score of the SAQ measured .89 and .91 during the first and second measurements respectively. All correlations for the South African measured subscales emerged highly significant at the 0.01 percent level and consistent with previous international findings, paving the way for further research.


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