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Risk Assessment Test SORAG

As we've discussed elsewhere on this site, in many cases it is necessary or helpful to obtain a risk assessment during the course of plea negotiations with the prosecution team. One of the risk assessment tests that is administered by the specialist is the SORAG.

SORAG stands for Sex Offender Risk Appraisal Guide and was developed by psychologists and counselors studying recidivism for violent and sexual offenders.

The SORAG asks a series of questions regarding the defendant's history, and especially takes into account the defendant's criminal history in the process of generating a "score." As the score gets higher, the perceived risk to reoffend gets higher. In addition to the defendant's experience in the criminal justice system and its supervision, the test asks about the defendant's grade school educational history, drug and alcohol history, family history up until the age of 16, and considers the results of personality tests administered pursuant to the risk assessment.

Problems with the SORAG

Of course any test that purports to address the future behavior of an individual should be taken with a grain of salt. It's one thing to suggest, with hindsight, that some percentage of a similarly situated group of people ended up committing additional offenses. But to transfer this same confidence to the prospective behavior of an individual creates some ethical problems – best left for another forum.

NOTE too, in the case of the SORAG, that the application of the SORAG is not limited specifically to sex-related conduct. Therefore the test should probably be taken with an extra grain of salt in cases where the defendant may have had some previous non-sex related brushes with the law. Even assuming the SORAG does as it suggests and accurately predicts future behavior, its findings are not limited to sex-related offenses and so it should perhaps be of less value in the context of evaluating sex crime recidivism. This is especially true in Arizona where it is the sexual nature of a crime that has the greatest impact on prison sentences.

Finally, the sample studies used in the creation of the SORAG all related to prisoners – this demands the query of what relevance that might have to an individual who has never been incarcerated.

For better or for worse, the SORAG will be part of any risk assessment conducting during plea negotiations of an Arizona sex crimes offense.