Reliability and validity of the Psychopathy Checklist-Revised in the assessment of risk for institutional violence: A cautionary note on DeMatteo et al. (2020).

Mark E. Olver, Keira C. Stockdale, Craig S. Neumann, Robert D. Hare, Andreas Mokros, Arielle Baskin-Sommers, Eddy Brand, Jorge Folino, Carl Gacono, Nicola S. Gray, Kent Kiehl, Raymond Knight, Elizabeth Leon-Mayer, Matt Logan, J. Reid Meloy, Sandeep Roy, Randall T. Salekin, Robert Snowden, Nicholas Thomson, Scott TillemMichael Vitacco, Dahlnym Yoon

Research output: Contribution to journalLetterpeer-review

24 Scopus citations


A group of 13 authors (GA) shared a statement of concern (SoC) warning against the use of the Hare Psychopathy Checklist-Revised (PCL-R; Hare, 1991, 2003) to assess risk for serious institutional violence in U.S. capital sentencing cases (DeMatteo et al., 2020). Notably, the SoC was not confined to capital sentencing issues, but included institutional violence in general. Central to the arguments presented in the SoC was that the PCL-R has poor predictive validity for institutional violence and also inadequate field reliability. The GA also identified important issues about the fallibility and inappropriate use of any clinical/forensic assessments, questionable evaluator qualifications, and their effects on capital sentencing decisions. However, as a group of forensic academics, researchers, and clinicians, we are concerned that the PCL-R represents a psycholegal red herring, while the SoC did not sufficiently address critical legislative, systemic, and evaluator/rating issues that affect all forensic assessment tools. We contend that the SoC’s literature review was selective and that some of the resultant opinions about uses and misuses of the PCL-R were potentially misleading. We focus our response on the evidence and conclusions proffered by the GA concerning the use of the PCL-R in capital and other cases. We provide new empirical findings regarding the PCL-R’s predictive validity and field reliability to further demonstrate its relevance for institutional violence risk assessment and management. We further demonstrate why the argument that group data cannot be relevant for single-case assessments is erroneous. Recommendations to support the ethical and appropriate use of the PCL-R for risk assessment are provided.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)490-510
Number of pages21
JournalPsychology, Public Policy, and Law
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2020


  • PCL-R
  • capital sentencing
  • field reliability
  • institutional violence
  • predictive validity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Law


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