What is SAPROF?

The acronym SAPROF stands for a structural assessment of protective factors, used as a tool to predict the future risk of violence in forensic psychiatry. Its purpose involves evaluating the risk of recidivism for people who have committed violent acts. The main goals of SAPROF assessment centers are to protect the public from dangerous persons, manage the risk of violence, and devise treatment programs to reduce the number of violent incidents.

This method uses a structured professional judgment model to predict whether a person will repeat violent behavior in the future. The assessment employs guidelines based on current knowledge about violent tendencies to predict whether a particular person presents a danger to others. Guidelines were developed through studies in the scientific, legal, and clinical communities.

Risk factors measured in SAPROF rate internal, external, and motivational characteristics. Motivational factors might include the offender's desire to change his or her violent behavior, and if he or she is open to treatment. The evaluator rates internal risk by looking at the person's attitude, whether anger is present, and if mental illness contributes to instances of violence.

External risk factors may include sexual, physical, or mental abuse as a child. The checklist also determines whether the offender has social support from friends and family. Substance abuse problems make up another part of the external evaluation process.

This analysis can be used in cases of sexual abuse and spousal violence. It can also be applied to stalking and workplace violence. Hospitals and correctional facilities commonly use a SAPROF checklist to develop plans to manage and prevent violent incidents. The procedure might also be valid in workers' compensation cases, immigration law, and to form privacy laws.

Before SAPROF was developed in 2007, mental health workers relied on clinical observation to predict future behavior. An evaluation of the offender’s life history helped psychiatrists discover what led to the violence and whether those conditions still existed. Each evaluator used his or her professional judgment to assess the risk for violence, rather than statistics gleaned from research.

An accurate prediction of violent tendencies protects a citizen from involuntary commitment to a mental institution. Those with a low risk rating might benefit from treatment with medication or psychotherapy to address issues such as anger management. People who pose a higher risk of danger to the public or coworkers can be isolated until the risk is reduced.

Judges rely on professional assessments to set bail or issue restraining orders to protect someone from being stalked or physically hurt. The results of SAPROF analysis might benefit a judge when deciding if a defendant should be incarcerated or sent to a mental institution for treatment. Parole boards commonly use these reports to determine if a prisoner should be released from custody.

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