Bad Medicine: Dr. Rice hangs it up

The Sept. 16 Globe and Minion featured an obit for Dr. Marnie Rice, the respected clinical psychologist, Royal Society of Canada Fellow and long-time director of research at the Penetanguishene loony bin’s notorious Oak Ridge Division.

The bughouse is these days known as the Waypoint Centre for Mental Health Care, but still warehouses some of our most profoundly fucked-up serial killers, pedophiles, sexual sadists and assorted psychopaths.

Dr. Rice, 67, the Globe noted, died August 17 in Midland. Rather than mention the terrible circumstances of her exit (family discovered her hanging in her home on Georgian Bay) the Globe quite properly celebrated her life and achievements.

And they were many during her 40-year career at Penetang and U of T; notably, “she was instrumental in creating two invaluable tools that help determine the likelihood of violent sex offenders and other criminals reoffending if released.”

Those would be the Violence Risk Appraisal Guide (VRAG) and the Sex Offender Risk Appraisal Guide (SORAG).

How ill-timed, then, that just two days after the Globe encomium ran, a Federal Court decision came down slamming Correctional Services Canada for the continued use of risk assessments, including VRAG and SORAG, on aboriginal inmates, despite mounting evidence that they’re culturally biased and productive of statistical “junk.”

“This is not an issue which CSC missed inadvertently. It has been a live issue since 2000, has been on CSC’s ‘radar screen,’ and the subject of past court decisions,” wrote Judge Michael Phelan. “It is time for the matter to be resolved.”

The court challenge had been brought by Jeffrey Ewert, whose mom was Metis, though he grew up in a (fucked-up) non-aboriginal adoptive family.Marnie Rice

By all accounts, Ewert, 53, has been a very naughty boy. He’s served 30 years so far, mostly in maximum security, for strangling and raping two women. He left one dead in a river, the other brain damaged and crippled.

Still, Ewert claimed his high scores on those allegedly biased risk assessments have effectively eliminated his chances for parole, day release, etc, etc., to the point that there’s been sense in applying even though he’s been technically eligible since the 90s.

CSC called Dr. Rice as an expert witness to defend the validity of the tests without, er, mentioning that she had helped author some of them:

“She was aware of this disclosure requirement,” Phelan wrote. “Her only explanation for failing to disclose is that she thought her involvement was obvious because her last name is associated with those tests,” quoth the judge. “With respect, having reviewed all the documents in this case, this Court was amazed by that suggestion.”

Justice Phelan, rather than let CSC face the court challenge without the benefit of expert evidence, allowed Rice’s testimony, but reserved his right to be unimpressed:

“In the end, Dr. Rice’s evidence was of little assistance, particularly to [CSC]. It is unnecessary to quote some of Dr. Rice’s more controversial statements about the political reasons behind the use of scientific tests. However, it was her view that the test scores are reliable and immutable. She eschewed the various rehabilitation programs run by CSC as distractions or something akin to giving prisoners something to do while in prison. In that regard, her evidence and central thesis runs contrary to the statutory purpose and the operational goals of CSC.”

Dr. Rice, he found, didn’t bother bringing much science to back up her claims, relying on, for instance, an unpublished Master’s thesis, “which had a very small number of Aboriginal data points and very low predictive power. In fact, Dr. Rice disavowed the narrative and analysis in the paper, but accepted the numerical scores. Such selective reliance undercuts the force of her opinion.”

In the event, Justice Phelan gave CSC thirty days to get its institutional shit together before he issues an order prohibiting the use of the dubious diagnostics on our misunderstood First Nations brothers.

A small mercy, then, that Dr. Rice will not have to witness these bleeding-heart, politically correct, evidence-obsessed assaults upon her life’s work.

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2 comments on “Bad Medicine: Dr. Rice hangs it up
  1. Patrick60 says:

    Enough rope, so to speak.

  2. ruffneck4u says:

    Although it’s sad to read about a premature demise, the rest is informative and I’m “Gladue Report” these contextual details.

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