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An Introduction to the field of Forensic Psychology

The concept of Forensic psychology involves the combination of law and psychology. The objective of this document is to attempt to explain the subject matters involving each field of Forensic psychology to wit; Criminal, Juvenile, Civil and Investigative subspecialties, by utilizing research, recourses, current, past and prior professional experiences. This document will attempt to combined research with educational awareness of the aforementioned subject matter. In addition, the aspect of the examination of the human psyche, along with the course of actions taken by our legal system, will provide the document with the necessary information to support its framework. This document will attempt to deliver to its reader the roles and responsibilities of a Forensic Psychologist in its subspecialties, describe any influential court cases that have influenced the practice of Forensic Psychology, and explain the ethical dilemmas and/or challenges faced by the Forensic Psychologist in the subspecialty. In addition, this document will attempt to explain to it reader, any unresolved controversial issues a Forensic Psychologist may face, and will discuss any relevant research obtained regarding each subspecialty.

The major roles and responsibilities regarding the subspecialties of a forensic psychologist

Criminal Psychology is a subdivision pertaining to the study of psychology concerning criminals and criminal acts. Criminal Psychology connects to the behaviors associated with criminal investigations. This also includes criminal profiling, assistance programs generated for victims of criminal activities, and psychological assessments. Criminal Psychology defines the behavior or actions of the criminal that are considered illegal acts and the violation of law set by individual jurisdictions. Further, said acts are considered to violate the norms of our society. A good working definition can be seen as “antisocial acts that place the individual at risk of becoming the focus of attention of a criminal investigation” (Andrews and Bonta, 1998). Moreover, Criminal Psychology is in no way, comparable to psychiatry. Psychiatry in the criminal field deals with the analysis and management of the mental illness. In addition, psychiatry may be utilized for psychoanalysis, to determine whether said illness can be cured. Criminal Psychology involves the study of what provokes an individual to commit a crime. Said study can consist of the individuals’ environment as an adolescent to the emotional strain they may deal with as an adult. Individuals that are qualified to conduct Criminal Psychology findings play an extremely important role in the criminal investigation. Said individuals can obtain information collected at a crime scene to be later utilized in creating a psychological profile of the offender also, the psychologist could take the collected data to make an assumption regarding the offender’s next move. Criminal Psychology specialist or Criminal Psychologist may assist local law enforcement with the interviews of witness and victims or the interrogations of a suspect, to obtain vital information regarding an ongoing investigation.

Before the nineteenth century, children were generally considered young adults, and they were expected to behave accordingly. Children over the age of seven years who were accused of crimes were prosecuted in adult court. If convicted they could be confined in an adult prison. By the nineteenth century, most states had created separate work farms and reform schools for convicted children, but some states still sent children to adult prisons. Juveniles were not always rehabilitated in prison. After interacting with adult criminals, they often emerged from prison with increased criminal knowledge and an increased resolve to commit crimes (Juvenile Law - History). The subspecialty of Forensic Psychologist, pertaining to juveniles, deals with the Psychology and mental health involving juveniles in the criminal justice system and their family members. Said subspecialty not only operates with juveniles involved in the criminal court system, it also assists the family courts involving cases of divorce and foster care. Forensic Psychologist working with juveniles often deal with juveniles in gangs and those juveniles that are tried as adults in criminal court. Juvenile Forensic Psychologist also conduct assessments concerning multi cultural issues psychosis, suspect confessions social development, the issues surrounding Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and serious juvenile violent offenders further, A Juvenile Forensic Psychologist conduct assessments on incarcerated youths.

In civil court, Psychologist, are called upon to utilize their expertise to assess situations involving the emotional aspect of a case. These assessments could be the result from injury do to stress, trauma, and pain, caused by the patient or another. Moreover, Civil Forensic Psychologist conducts neurological evaluations to determine if any cognitive injury is present. Theses Psychologist are also asked to asses the length of time an traumatic situation may cause for example, the emotional influence a child will sustain after the loss of a parent or sibling, the same assessment can be used to determine the emotional impact surrounding the stress and trauma a crime victim may have. The role of the Forensic Psychologist, pertaining to our civil arena, for example, would be to assist with providing assessments, appraisal, and consulting services for the civil court, that court could also be cases in the family court system and at times, cases that would extend in to the criminal court. Further, the Civil Forensic Psychologist may also be called to assist his/her expertise in cases of neglect, to either a child or an elderly victim. Interviews of juvenile witnesses are also functions of the Civil Forensic Psychologist. Civil Forensic Psychologist are called to deliver findings of psychological assessment obtained form individuals who may have been the subject of a work related incident such as, an employee who is suing his/her for sexual harassment or topics of discrimination, or individuals who may have been mistreated base on a disability. However, the Psychologist may also be utilized by the plaintiff to oversea and or conduct training of staff, crew, or employees to wit; sensitivity training, mediation and problem solving. A Civil Forensic Psychologist may give an assessment evaluation regarding the competency of an individual, they also make evaluations regarding the circumstances prior to someone’s death to wit’ psychological autopsy.

Forensic Psychology in the investigative subspecialty can involve numerous roles. A Forensic Investigative Psychologist may assist law enforcement agencies to profiler a criminal, their experience can also be used to assist law enforcement from the interviewing of a suspect, witness, and or victim. Subsequently, the criminal profiler has be categorized and dramatized on several movies, books, and television broadcast. However, profiling is a specialty that is engaged by a psychologist and his/her comprehension of the human behavior, impulse. Criminal profiling involves the psychologist (though all profilers are not psychologists) using his understanding of human behavior, motivation, and psyche. Said concept is the cornerstone for the psychologist to form a so that he/she can form a profile of the criminal. Forensic Investigative Psychologist utilizes their information of a suspect to calculate how the suspect will react in the future. A majority of the Forensic Investigative Psychologist are not your traditional police officers rather, they operating more in an academic environment and will conduct training with the department, whenever needed. However, you will see said Psychologist assisting law enforcement to wit; officer consolation and evaluation of potential recruits in addition, they provide counseling for victims of crimes and conduct crisis intervention when needed.

When an individual is apprehended, convicted, and imprisoned for their crimes, and it is apparent that a mental instability/disease exists, should this individual be afforded the opportunity, at the taxpayer’s expense, to receive psychiatric assistance. The processing of inmates receiving psychiatric treatment while incarcerated, is primarily, a function that is performed by a Forensic Correctional Psychologist, said individual will perform his or her duties with the same diligence as he/she would conduct with a non-criminal patient. A Forensic Correctional Psychologist performs initial inmate screening/assessments for all new inmates. These findings are used to assist with the inmates needs. The importance of this process facilitates the inmates needs with services directed to assist them to wit; counseling/therapy (group or one-on-one). Further, the Forensic Psychologist, by means of said assessment, can determine whether the inmate will be a risk for violent behavior, suicide, and stress, because of adjusting to life in a correctional facility. Moreover, the Forensic Psychologist can assist the inmate with coping skills to accommodate them during their stay/prison sentence. Forensic Psychologist also assumes the role conducting crisis intervention. The importance of this role is to combat any volatile that may arise, and warrant immediate intervention, such an inmate being the victim of a sexual assault, gang violence, suicide prevention, prison riots, and hostage negotiator. In addition, the Forensic Psychologist can prevent imminent violent situations, for example; potential gang wars, or homicidal threats. Further, according to the APA’s Specialty Guidelines for Forensic Psychologists’; section II, sub section’s A&B; forensic psychologists have an obligation to provide services in a manner consistent with the highest standards of their profession. They are responsible for their own conduct and the conduct of those individuals under their direct supervision. Forensic psychologists make a reasonable effort to ensure that their services and the products of their services are used in a forthright and responsible manner. Moreover, prison Psychiatrists can assist some inmates with mental disorders, and possibly improve their mental health situation while detained in a correctional facility.

The Forensic Police Psychologist subspecialty contributes to law enforcement in many phases of the job. The Forensic Police Psychologist, a majority of the time, is not a police officer however, their task requires he/she to have a thorough conception of law enforcement and its duties. Forensic Police Psychologist portrays a critical part pertaining to the hiring process of law enforcement agencies. Law enforcement agencies, throughout the country, utilize screening processes to determine whether a candidate for their department is mature, mentally stable, sovereign, sociable, and competent to perform his/her duties as a police officer, because the authority and accountability of law enforcement requires high standards. The process is typically conducted by a qualified psychologist, with experience in said field. Further, the Forensic Psychologist, by means of said assessment, can determine whether the candidate will be a risk/liability for themselves, other officers, or the public. The process attempts to guarantee that only mentally and psychologically appropriate individuals are acknowledged to function as police officers. Moreover, it also attempts to identify those who are considered incapable of same. In addition, the Police Psychologist assessments may help them in assisting sworn officers coping with stress, and conflict resolution issues, some Psychologist even serve as marriage counselors to the officers and their wives. They assess and counsel officers regarding lethal force incidents, suicides, interviews for specialized units/teams (SWAT, Hostage negotiation), and conduct departmental evaluations regarding an officers fitness for duty.

Influential court cases that have influenced Forensic Psychology in its subspecialty

An influential court case that may have influenced the practice of Forensic Criminal Psychology is; Dusky V. U.S. This case set the norm for competency evaluations in the American judicial system. Essentially, the ruling stated that in order for a defendant to stand trial, for the crime/crimes he/she has committed, they must be able, with a reasonable level of understanding to acknowledge the trial procedures that are taking place. Further, the ruling states that a defendant must comprehend the charges brought against him/her and should be able to assist the defense attorney in matters pertaining to their defense. There are several acceptable approaches for performance of competency to stand trial evaluations including standardized methods such as Georgia Competency Test. Competency to stand trial evaluations can be ordered by the defense, the prosecution, or the courts. According to Determination of mental competency to stand trial to undergo post-release proceedings, both individual’s Motion to Determine Competency will be granted. Further, both Defendants will under go, according to The Determination of mental competency to stand trial to undergo post-release proceedings, either a Psychiatric or Psychological Examination and Report; before the continuation of their criminal proceedings. In addition, since both individuals; in the previously mentioned scenarios have been treated and diagnosed with a form of mental illness in the past, the court will most likely; commit them to the custody of the Attorney General for hospitalization and treatment for said illness. Moreover, according to The Determination of mental competency to stand trial to undergo post-release proceedings, should both Defendants mental health improve, and it is determine that they understand the nature of their perspective offenses/crimes and that they are capable of properly assisting their defense. The court shall order for the trial or other proceedings to continue.

We all take issue with the notion that if you commit the crime, you do the time (Grisso and Belter, 1989). However, it is difficult to escape the notion that children, by means of their psychological development do not possess the mental capacity to appreciate their rights that are contained in our United States Constitution. A fair trial is afforded in the Bill of Rights however; it is conditionally based on a defendant’s mental ability to stand trial. Juvenile defendants are afforded these same rights nonetheless, are said juveniles competent to understand said rights? For example, On January 13, 2000, Nathaniel Abraham, a small 13-year-old boy, was convicted of murder as an adult when he was tried in a criminal court in Pontiac, Michigan. With a borrowed weapon, he and fatally shot a stranger from a hillside, approximately 200 feet away (T. Grisso, 2000). While in police custody, he waived his Miranda rights though; he did not intelligently do so; he was unaware of the consequences of his statements. He did not know why he was being interrogated nor did he comprehend the wording of the advisory of rights form, specifically pertaining to the right to stop the interview when he wanted to. In addition, the boy’s age, learning disability and mental impairment should have been a factor prior to his interrogation. At his court hearing, mental health experts testified that he was mentally and emotionally impaired. However, Nathaniel’s sentence generated the great controversy. Michigan's new law allowing youths of any age to be tried as adults was not rare. The same law, however, allowed Michigan judges three possible sentences for youths convicted in adult court: an adult prison term, a sentence that begins in juvenile facilities and then may continue in adult correctional facilities, or a sentence to juvenile facilities alone that expires when the youth reaches age 21 (T. Grisso, 2000). For example, it is inconceivable to believe that when a juvenile defendant waives their rights to wit; Miranda warning that said child has the right to remain silent. In my opinion, it should be mandated, throughout the United States that should a Juvenile, who is a suspect in a criminal investigation, should not be questioned unless he/she’s parent or legal guardian is present. In the state of Indiana, said law exists.

Cruzan v. Director, Missouri Department of Health, is an influential court case that influenced the practice of Forensic Civil Psychology. In 1983, Nancy Cruzan was involved in a vehicle accident, which left her in a coma, and a state of vegetation. She was breathing via; a life support system and a feeding tube had been implanted in her to keep her alive. Said condition lasted approximately four (4) years, with no sings of recovery. Nancy’s family attempted to have the life support system legally removed however, the Missouri State Court denied the request, stating that there was not clear, and convincing evidence that Nancy Cruzan would want said procedure conducted. Subsequently, Nancy’s family submitted to the court significant proof that she would not want to live her life via; a life support system. Eventually, the courts ruled in the families’ behave, and her life was terminated. A state trial court authorized the termination, finding that a person in Cruzan's condition has a fundamental right under the State and Federal Constitutions, to direct or refuse the withdrawal of death-prolonging procedures. Further, Cruzan's expression to a former housemate that she would not wish to continue her life if sick or injured unless she could live at least halfway normally suggested that she would not wish to continue with her nutrition and hydration (Cornell Law, 1990).

A case that influenced the practice of Forensic Investigative Psychology would be Frye V. United States. During the twentieth century, admissibility to allow expert testimony in our federal courts was administered by the Frye standard. In the initial case of Frye, the defendant was convicted of murder, primarily based on a confession the he had given to law enforcement. The defendant claimed that said confession was false therefore, in attempts to prove the defendant’s innocence, the expert testimony and results of a polygraph test was produced. However, the court prohibited said testimony. Further, the court ruled that the aforementioned testimony/scientific findings were not admissible, because the test had not established acceptance or had general acceptance among its peers (scientific community) at that time, not being. In 1975, when the Federal Rules were enacted, and employed a more liberal approach than Frye, allowing admission of scientific, technical, or other specialized testimony. Subsequently, our legal system began creating standards used to determine the admissibility of an expert's scientific testimony, established in Frye v. United States. A court applying the Frye standard must determine whether the method by which that evidence was obtained, was generally accepted by experts in the particular field in which it belongs. However, due to new federal standards set forth by Daubert, most states have chosen to follow Daubert (Delker and Rice, 2000).

Estelle v. Gamble influenced the future of practice of the Forensic Correctional Psychology subspecialty. J.W. Gamble was housed as an inmate, in a correctional facility, in the state of Texas. During his time as an inmate on November 09, 1973, he suffered an injury, while executing his inmate assignments. Gamble, while seeking medical attention at the correctional facility’s infirmary, was administered pain pills for his back injury and examined by a physician. After several visits to the correctional facility’s physician, correctional facility officials refused to adhere to the doctor’s request, that Gamble be allowed to certain privileges to accommodate his injury and recovery. Subsequently, Gamble returned to work however, after complaining that he was still in pain, he was placed in administrative segregation, as a form of punishment, for not being able to work. During a hearing in front to the correctional facility disciplinary committee, Gamble was placed in solitary confinement for his refusal to work. While in solitary confinement, Gamble experienced chest pains and asked to see a doctor, the correctional facility guards refused his request, and after asking to see a doctor the next day, the guards still refused. Essentially, the courts ruled that Gamble Eight Amendment rights were violated, stating that he was subjected to cruel and unusual punishment (Estelle v. Gamble, 1976).

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) influences most Law enforcement agency regarding their psychological screening procedure. Therefore, the administrator of the screening test, namely the Forensic Psychologist, should pay close attention to the ADA’s law and guidelines, in order to adhere to said laws and whom it shields. Said act (ADA), has changed the way our local, state and federal agencies perform their candidate hiring process. The American with Disabilities act shields individuals who possess mental or physical disabilities, which would possibly restrict them from performing life major life activities to wit; running, jumping and hand and eye utilization. Further, the ADA shields individuals with a documented history of debilitating or chronic disease to wit, asthma, high blood pressure, diabetes or cardiovascular disease.

With this said, the Denhof and LeClear v. City of Grand Rapids is a case that influenced the practice of Forensic Police Psychology, in this case, the city of Grand Rapids, Michigan, relieved two female law enforcement officers of duties, because the were found to be psychologically unfit for the job. In 2002, Denhof, while working for the Grand Rapids Police Department, was removed from the department. Further, LeClear was also removed from the same department. The two former officers filed a lawsuit against the City of Grand Rapids, stating that they experienced gender discrimination, retaliation and on the job harassment. Subsequently, the Federal appeals court ruled in their favor, by awarding them each a monetary sum (Denhof and LeClear v. City of Grand Rapids, 2007).

Ethical dilemmas and/or challenges encountered by the forensic psychologist

Code of Ethics/Conduct, set the standards for integrity, professionalism, and discretion, which all individuals in their chosen profession shall be obligated to comply with, and assume to adhere to the provisions of their Code of Ethics. Most, if not all professions contain a Code of Ethics for their skilled professionals. Further, Code of Ethics are basis to endorse and maintain the highest standard of professional service and conduct. Observance to these standards assures public confidence in the integrity and service clients seek to acquire.

Ethical dilemmas faced by Forensic Criminal Psychologist, could be the admission of an unrelated crime, by a defendant, when the Psychologist is conducting a pre-trial evaluation (American Psychology Law Society, 1991). For example John Doe, was arrested for burglary, and while during his pre-trial psychological evaluation, he informs his Psychologist that he committed an armed robber. The Psychologist is face with an ethical dilemma whether to ignore the APA’s code of conduct, or to report said offence. However, the dilemma can be rectified so to speak, should the District court have guidelines and regulations, stipulating that said offence could not be reported. Another Ethical dilemma faced by Forensic Criminal Psychologist, is the disclosing of confidential information. For example, Jane Doe, a victim of a crime, informs to her victims assistance advocate, who is also a Criminal Psychologists, that her boyfriend, who battered her, sells illegal narcotics. The dilemma is whether the Psychologist can report the boyfriend’s activities. According to the Ethical Principles of Psychologists and Code of Conduct 2010, Standard 4, the Psychologist has every right to report the information.

An Ethical dilemma encountered by a Juvenile Psychologist would be, for example, a school Psychologist is approached by the school’s Superintendent, to be placed on retainer to represent the school regarding any potential civil cases, as an expert witness. After discussing a fee, the Psychologist accepts the offer. According to section 7, in the Specialty Guidelines for Forensic Psychology, subsection 7.02 (Fee Arrangements), which essentially states that the objectivity of the Forensic Psychologist would be effected should accept contingency fees. An additional dilemma encountered by a Juvenile Psychologist, would be the interview of a Juvenile suspect. For example, John D. is interviewed by a Juvenile Psychologist, subsequently after his apprehension. John D., during his interview, informs the Psychologist that he committed the crime. The dilemma in said scenario is that the admission would be inadmissible, for two factors. One; John D. is a Juvenile and was not properly represented, two; although the Psychologist is not a police officer, he is an agent of the department and was working as one during the time of the interview.

An Ethical dilemma encountered by a Civil Psychologist would be, for example, A Psychologist, as testifies as an expert witness, regarding a civil litigation. While on the witness stand, the lawyer for the plaintiff reads of the Psychologist qualifications. However, the lawyer inadvertently stated that the Psychologist has a law degree, when in fact, the Psychologist does not. The Psychologist is obligated to correct the mistake, according to the Ethical Principles of Psychologists and Code of Conduct, Standard: 1, Subsection: 1.01 Misuse of Psychologists' Work . An additional dilemma could result when, for example, a Psychologist is asked to testify as an expert witness regarding a racial discrimination lawsuit, for the plaintiff. However, the Psychologist, is of the same race of the plaintiff and has personal issues with racisms, and has a personal bias towards individuals that are not of the same race as she. According to the Ethical Principles of Psychologists and Code of Conduct, Standard: 1, Subsection: 3.01 Unfair Discrimination

An Ethical dilemma encountered by an Investigative Psychologist would be, for example, A Psychologist, has been asked to interview an individual who was arrested for a series of homicides. Upon arrival to the interview room, the Psychologist learns that the suspect is a client of his. The Psychologist should not accept the assignment, according to the Ethical Principles of Psychologists and Code of Conduct, Standard: 1, Subsection: 3.05 Multiple Relationships An additional dilemma would be 3.06 Conflict of Interest Psychologists refrain from taking on a professional role when personal, scientific, professional, legal, financial, or other interests or relationships could reasonably be expected. (1) Impair their objectivity, competence, or effectiveness in performing their functions as psychologists or (2) expose the person or organization with whom the professional relationship exists to harm or exploitation. For example, an Investigative Psychologist has been asked to testify as an expert witness in a murder trial. Further, the trial is a Capitol offence and if convicted, the defendant will face the death penalty. The Psychologist, in the past, has publicly denounced the death penalty and remains to be a critic of said form of punishment. Therefore, the Psychologist is obligated not to testify.

An Ethical dilemma encountered by a Correctional Psychologist would be, for example, interruption of services. According to the Ethical Principles of Psychologists and Code of Conduct, Standard: 1, Subsection: 3.12 Interruption of Psychological Services unless otherwise covered by contract, psychologists make reasonable efforts to plan for facilitating services. In the event that psychological services are interrupted by factors such as the psychologist's illness, death, unavailability, relocation, or retirement or by the clients/patient's relocation or financial limitations. For example, a Correctional Psychologist has an inmate/client however; the inmate is being transferred to another prison. With that said, the Psychologist is allowed to interrupt his/her services with the inmate. An additional dilemma for a Correctional Psychologist would be the solicitation of testimonies. According to the Ethical Principles of Psychologists and Code of Conduct, Standard: 1, Subsection: 5.05 Testimonials Psychologists do not solicit testimonials from current therapy clients/patients or other persons who because of their particular circumstances are vulnerable to undue influence. Therefore, a Psychologist is not permitted to ask a client to solicit for him/her regarding the services they provide.

An Ethical dilemma encountered by a Police Psychologist would be Ethical Principles of Psychologists and Code of Conduct, Standard: 1, Subsection: 9.01 Bases for Assessments (a) Psychologists base the opinions contained in their recommendations, reports, and diagnostic or evaluative statements, including forensic testimony, on information and techniques sufficient to substantiate their findings. For example, a Police Psychologist, interviews an officer after an officer involved shooting, the Psychologist will then make his/her recommendations/findings based on the incident, interviews and statements made by the officer/officers involved, regardless of statements of traumatic stress stated by said officers. An additional dilemma would be a group therapy session is conducted by a Police Psychologist. Prior to the start of the session, the Psychologist informs the participants of his role in said session and the confidentiality involved. The Psychologist is obligated to relay said information, according to the Ethical Principles of Psychologists and Code of Conduct, Standard: 1, Subsection: 10.03 Group Therapy.

Unresolved controversial issues facing Forensic Psychologist in their subspecialty

The perception and conception of why people commit crime is an unresolved issue in Criminal Psychology. While some individuals are born to with a disregard for the law and authority, and others develop it by association with others. Unresolved issues in Juvenile Psychology exist with the criteria for precise diagnosis of PTSD. The criteria for PTSD in children, may not be procedurally adapt do to the severity of the trauma. Civil Psychology faces an unresolved issue with involuntary commitment. Involuntary commitment in whole, denies an individual of their independence although, involuntary commitment, is designated to protect the individual from harming themselves and others, and to attempt to deliver psychological assistance for those in need. The lack of multicultural understanding is being dealt with by the law enforcement community however; the progress remains an unresolved issue within Police Psychology. Although, the wheels of progress are moving, they move slowly, to bridge the language and culture gaps. Individuals are imprisoned to protect society and to deter further crimes by said individual. In order to achieve this goal, peculiarly if the individual has a mental disease; requires treatment by a psychiatrist. There is no guarantee that the inmate, once released, will not commit further criminal acts however; the unresolved issue faced by Correctional Psychology is whether, the inmate, once released is cured.

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