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May 30, 2009

Examining the work of psychologists in correctional settings

Now up on SSRN is this new article titled "'Where the Home in the Valley Meets the Damp Dirty Prison': A Human Rights Perspective on Therapeutic Jurisprudence and the Role of Forensic Psychologists in Correctional Settings."  Here is the abstract:

The roles of forensic psychologists in coerced environments such as corrections include that of treatment provider (for the offender) and that of organizational consultant (for the community).  This dual role raises ethical issues in the balance between offender and community rights, an imbalance results in the violation of human rights.  A timely reminder of a slippery ethical slope that can arise is the failure of the American Psychological Association to manage this balance regarding interrogation and torture of detainees under the Bush administration.  To establish a “bright-line position” regarding ethical practice, forensic psychologists need to be cognizant of international human rights law. In this endeavor, international covenants and a universal ethical code ought to guide practice, although seemingly unresolveable conflicts between ethics codes and the law may arise.  The legal theory of therapeutic jurisprudence can assist psychologists to understand the law, the legal system, and their role in applying the law therapeutically to support offender dignity, freedom, and well-being.  In this way, a moral stance is taken and the forensic role of treatment provider and/or organizational consultant is not expected to trump the ethical principle “do no harm” with the ethical principle “community protection”.

May 30, 2009 at 08:13 AM | Permalink


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Not very many Americans care about what happens to inmates. There was an issue raised by an inmate concerning the programs that require cooperation by inmates. All inmates have to submit to their program. Refusal to participate in these programs brings on a punishment to the inmate, such as he is raised to a higher level.(from medium to maximum) The first requirement in the programs is that the inmate confess to the crime for which he is incarcerated, this is even if he pled not guilty or nolo contendre, once in prison, he is forced to confess to the crime he is charged with. The issue was raised by an inmate and went clear up to the Supreme Court of the US. Sandra Day O'Conner wrote the majority opinion, as the court found for the prison rule. She said basically, "it is a fair rule, prisons have to maintain order and this doesn't actually hurt the inmate." I wish Sandra Day O'Conner and the other justices had to spend one week in a maximum prison where they were raped, set on fire, and where their cell mates were slipped notes that say, "either kill your cellie or we kill you when you come out." We would see how well Ms O'Conner slept. Over zealous prosecutors were strongly behind this rule, it exonerated them, now they could say, "You see, I don't send away the innocent, they all confessed." The police have a few rules due to the fifth amendment about coerced confessions, but once in prison, there is no rule about this. This article just reveals another sham that happens in prisons. Without a critical, caring public, how are these conditions ever going to change? Sotomayor is said to be a liberal, but "tough on crime" and "tough on the defendant." I think all judges should have to spend a week in a maximum prison before they take the bench. Sitting in their ivory towers, with a superior intelligence, how does this help them to empathize with the inner city black boy of low intelligence, or the rural white guy who is mentally ill, introverted, innocent? The general public sit before their televisions after working their three jobs, they sit there numb and watch John Walsh or Nancy Grace ranting 24 hours a day. They trust their justices to handle the matters of justice, unless or until, it happens to them. Then it is too late. I don't think that Sotomayor's background shows she has empathy. She started out poor, but she was a "bully" according to collegues. She somehow elbowed her way clear to the very top. The Kennedys are wealthy, but somehow, they developed a sense of empathy. Being born poor, and elbowing your way to the very top does not develop empathy, it develops an attitude of "its the survival of the fittest! " The most contemptous citizens against their fellow man, are not the wealthy, they are the self made men (or worse yet) women, who think that because they were intelligent enough, or had parents who sacrificed enough so that they were able to tromp all over their peers and trample their way to a position of power.

Posted by: DL | May 30, 2009 10:00:16 AM

Read David R.McKune v Robert G.Lile , a Kansas case.

Posted by: DL | May 30, 2009 11:47:58 AM

Well, I think that article is a bunch of nonsense. Psychology is the student of the mind in all its forms and it all its contexts. The APA did not fail. It simply refuses (so far) to get drawn into taking sides.

"In this endeavor, international covenants and a universal ethical code ought to guide practice."

That's pure fantasy. There is no such thing psychologically as a universal ethical code. Indeed, the very word "ought" indicates we are dealing with a normative and not a descriptive claim. And when normative claims are made based upon descriptive falsehoods BS is sure to follow.

Posted by: Daniel | May 30, 2009 3:17:51 PM

Daniel: If you decide to want to own a professional association, and decide to sue the APA, please, let me know in private.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | May 30, 2009 7:02:29 PM

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