The Development of the Brief Spousal Assault Form for the Evaluation of Risk (B-SAFER): A Tool for Criminal Justice Professionals
We developed a tool that criminal justice professionals can use to assess risk for spousal violence, called the B-SAFER. The B-SAFER was based on the SARA, and shares two important strengths. First, the B-SAFER uses a structured professional judgment or structured discretion approach that is appropriate for criminal justice contexts. Second, the content of the B-SAFER is firmly grounded in the professional and scientific literatures on spousal violence. But the B-SAFER also has two important advantages over the SARA when used in some criminal justice contexts. First, the B-SAFER is shorter in length than is the SARA, and thus is less resource intensive to administer. Second, the content of the B-SAFER includes fewer items and less technical jargon related to mental disorder, and consequently requires less expertise to use.
Based on our development work and on the results of pilot testing, we make the following recommendations:
- The B-SAFER should be disseminated to criminal justice professionals. Police officers found the B-SAFER helpful and easy to use in routine investigations of spousal assault complaints. In addition to helping them assess risks, the B-SAFER helped police to make risk management decisions. The B-SAFER materials we developed are ready for dissemination in print form or via the Internet.
- Software to assist use of the B-SAFER should be developed. Such software should include the B-SAFER materials described here in electronic form, and in addition should include modules that facilitate easy and accurate coding of assessment and management decisions. According to the police officers who participated in the pilot testing, the availability of software that helps to make their jobs easier would greatly increase the likelihood that they will routinely use the B-SAFER. Similar software already has been developed for other risk assessment procedures, including the SARA.
- A B-SAFER training program should be developed. Training should be provided to criminal justice professionals who will be conducting risk assessments. As in-person training of large numbers of people presents logistic problems and is costly, we recommend that the Department of Justice consider developing training software. Similar training software already has been developed for other risk assessment procedures, including the intranet SARA training program developed and implemented by the Correctional Service of Canada. Note that it would be possible to incorporate the administration and training software into a single, comprehensive suite.
- Further evaluation of the B-SAFER should be undertaken in Canada. Evaluation should examine the interrater and test-retest reliability of the B-SAFER, as well as the impact of the B-SAFER on the safety of victims of spousal violence. Such research should not be started until final decisions are made regarding the format in which the B-SAFER will be disseminated.
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