There are many areas of the law in which predictions of the potential for violence play a significant role. For example, United States v. Salerno (1986) discussed the issue of the potential for violence with regard to decisions made during bail hearings. Further, decisions regarding probation/parole often entail a concern for whether the person will pose a risk to others. Since the landmark case of Lessard v. Schmidt (1972), the process of civil commitment has been based on the concept of “danger to self or others” by reason of mental illness. Of the 32 states in which the death penalty is permitted, 26 of them allow information related to an individual’s potential for future violence to be presented to help the jury to determine the appropriate sentence: death or life in prison. As we shall see, the research in this area is limited in terms of the ability to predict violent behavior; yet the question—“Doctor, will this man be dangerous?”—is frequently asked of clinicians who serve as expert witnesses. Despite the paucity of research to back up the validity of such forecasts, many have no compunction about rendering their opinions.
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/david-shapiro/187/