Development VERA and VERA-2

The first VERA assessment guide was designed to be systematic, empirically grounded, developmentally informed, treatment oriented, flexible and practical (Borum et al., 2006), and the structure was modeled after other structured professional judgment (SPJ) tools assessing the risk of general violence in adolescents and adults.

It included 25 indicators with 10 critical indicators related to Attitudes and Motivating Ideologies.

Contextual relationships and situations risk indicators were included such as friendships, associations, family connections and other networks, including internet linkages.

Historical indicators were included related to capacity for violence and prior training and experience. The Protective items were risk mitigating elements that may be present and should be considered in making an overall risk judgment (Pressman, 2009).

Prison setting

The VERA risk assessment tool was identified as relevant for the terrorist population by forensic psychologists and clinical experts in a high-risk correctional terrorism unit in Australia in 2009 (Pressman & Flockton, 2012). The use of the VERA was found to assist professionals in the prison setting to:

  1. Develop targeted programs for inmates wherever possible;
  2. Identify appropriate prison placements;
  3. Monitor radicalization occurring in the prison setting among other inmates;
  4. Allow for justification and progression of inmates to lower security classifications when  assessed as having modified their ideological views, intentions and goals on the VERA.

Empirical use

The VERA-2 tool was developed with several revisions, with 31 indicators, and a motivational 'drivers' section. This was done after the empirical use in the prison setting, feedback from experts in terrorism studies, experts in risk assessment methodology, experts in prison settings and from operational experts and analysts in law enforcement (Pressman & Flockton, 2012; 2014).