Sex Offender Risk Assessment

Depending upon the nature of the case, Dr. Dunham utilizes a clinically-adjusted actuarial approach that is research-driven and literature-based in his risk assessments of sexual offenders. Studies indicate that offering an opinion about a sexual offender's future risk is no better than chance when that opinion is based upon clinical judgment alone. As such, maintaining constant awareness of the literature and research is paramount when assessing risk.


Actuarial testing is designed to help estimate one's risk for sexual recidivism. When used appropriately, such testing can serve as a foundation for the remaining assessment. It is up to the evaluator to determine whether significant factors beyond the scope of the actuarial scheme exist that may elevate or mitigate one's risk as determined by testing. Hence, the clinically-adjusted actuarial approach.


When actuarial testing cannot be employed, it is essential that the evaluator pay close attention to known recidivism rates and the current state of literature. This research-driven approach provides an alternative to the clinically-adjusted actuarial approach and is still within the mainstream and standard of practice for forensic psychologists conducting sex offender risk assessments.

There are numerous categories and sub-categories in which sexual offenders can be placed, and recidivism rates are dependent upon which category the person is classified. Consequently, the assessment and ultimate opinions are also dependent upon the classification of sexual offenders. For example, contact and non-contact offenders (e.g., child pornography) are assessed differently, psychopathic offenders present additional factors to consider, and intrafamilial and extrafamilial child molesters have different rates of recidivism. While these are just a few of the many categorical differences, what is important is that the evaluator understand the differences and apply techinques accordingly in order to best assess future risk.

Dr. Dunham conducts sex offender risk assessments in a variety of contexts, including:


  • Sexually Violent Predator Evaluations for Texas' SVP Act
    • Special Prosecution Unit
    • State Counsel for Offenders
    • Texas Department of Criminal Justice
    • Council on Sex Offender Treatment
  • Sex Offender Risk Assessments for Sentencing
    • Criminal Trials (prosecution and defense)
    • Federal Sentencing Hearings (usually child pornography cases)
  • Sex Offender Risk Assessments for Parole Hearings


Dr. Dunham is also called upon to evaluate sex offender treatment progress and serves as a consultant to a sex offender treatment program.


Dr. Dunham has conducted hundreds of sex offender evaluations and testified in over 150 cases, some of which have garnered national attention. He continues to strive toward the best understanding of sexual offenders as possible and to stay current in the literature on sex offender risk assessment.