Thursday, July 8, 2010

Office of the Inspector General finds numerous problems with the BOARD's "hired guns" (Psychologists)

The Senate Rules Committee asked the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) to investigate at least two aspects of the Board’s psych reports: (1) the factual errors in the reports and (2) psychologists who give lifers higher risk predictions than they received in older reports. The OIG found numerous problems with the reports and noted that these problems put the state at risk of legal challenges and they destroy confidence in the parole consideration process. Here are some highlights:


I - Errors in the Forensic Psychological Reports


· Even though psych reports include the statement that the psychologist reviewed the prisoner’s central file, this is not true. They only review a few documents pulled from the central file by records staff.

· The Board does not actually know how many factual errors are contained in psychological reports, but 100% of the reports in a sample from 2009 contained factual errors. Each report had between one and four factual errors. However, the true number of errors is unknown because the commissioners’ reports of these errors are inaccurate and misleading.

· Senior Psychologists, who are supposed to review and approve the reports written by staff psychologists, never check the sources of statements made in the reports, so even obvious errors and misstatements are overlooked when the reports are approved.

II -The Board Does Not Track Bad Psychologists


· The Board does not have a good way to keep track of how many low-risk, moderate-risk, and high-risk predictions psychologists put in their reports, so they are unable to identify patterns and problems. For this reason, the main question the OIG was interested in – whether the new psychologists exaggerate risk – could not be answered.

· The senior psychologists work out of their homes (not in a central office), and the Board does not keep track of what they do with their time, how many evaluations they actually review or the quality of their work.

III - Commissioners and Prisoners/Attorneys Disagree about Reliability of Reports

· Commissioners thought the psych reports were reliable and that very few of them have errors. Lifers’ attorneys, however, believed a much higher percentage of reports had errors, and they generally found the evaluations to be less reliable than commissioners thought they were.

IV - Commissioners, Deputy Commissioners and Senior Psychologists Lack Training

· Penal Code section 5076.6 requires commissioners and deputy commissioners to receive 40 hours of mandatory training within 60 days of their appointment and 40 hours every year after that. Although commissioners did receive the initial training, none of the 10 commissioners on the job long enough received the mandatory 40 hours each year after that. They all received less than half of the mandatory training, and some received as little as 25% of it.

· Only 3 out of the 16 deputy commissioners that were recently hired received the 40 hours of training at the beginning, and only 2 of the 70 total number of deputy commissioners received the mandatory 40 hours after that. On average, they received less than half of the mandatory training each year.

· Government Code section 19995.4 requires senior psychologists to receive at least 80 hours mandatory training within 12 months of their appointment; however, none of the senior psychologists received this training. In fact, one senior psychologist had not received any training as a supervisor until he had been on the job for more than two years.

V- LIFER Hearing Postponements Likely to Increase Again


· For hearings scheduled in or after October 2010, the Board may not have enough psychologists to complete all the necessary reports because 14 staff psychologists they hired for a limited time lost their jobs at the end of June 2010.

VI - OIG Will Review the Quality of Psychological Evaluations

· The OIG is hiring an independent psychologist to study the accuracy and validity of the Board’s psychological evaluations. The OIG will report on that study when it is complete.

The OIG website is at http://oig.ca.gov/

The full report is available at
http://www.oig.ca.gov/media/reports/BOA/reports/Special%20Report%20on%20the%20Board%20of%20Parole%20Hearings%20Psychological%20Evaluations%20and%20Mandatory%20Training%20Requirements.pdf

Information contributed by: Attorney Keith Wattley