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Criminal Psychology

Criminal Psychology

Criminal psychology is the study of the thoughts, will, intentions, and reactions of criminals and those who engage in criminal behavior. Criminal psychology not only seeks to understand what makes a person commit a crime, but also human reactions after the crime. Many criminal psychologists are called to testify as expert witnesses in trials, largely to help a jury understand the mind of a criminal, or to judge whether an individual was sane or not during the committing of a crime.

Experts in the Field of Criminal Psychology

The are four basic roles that an expert can perform in criminal psychology.

  • The clinical role uses the expert in the assessment of a person accused of committing a crime. These assessments can be used to determine if a person is competent enough to stand trial.
  • The experimental role sees the criminal psychologist conducting research in order to further a case, such as questioning eyewitness credibility.
  • The actuarial role uses statistics, such as the probability of an event. In a criminal case, such statistics can be used to ask the likelihood of an individual reoffending.
  • The advisory role sees an expert in criminal psychology advising the police in regards to an investigation, such as the best way to interview a suspect.

Another major aspect of criminal psychology is that of profiling. The FBI began using criminal profiling in the 1960s as a tool in an investigation. Such work has been popularized in books and films such as Silence of the Lambs.

Criminal Psychologists

At the present time, there are a number of notable issues facing criminal psychologists. As the punishment models of the 1980's provide no real solution to the issue of crime, corrections professionals are now being challenged to develop new rehabilitative models of corrections that provide guaranteed results for the community. While this has promulgated the development of restorative justice and community-based corrections programs, the reality is that most corrections programs are still in their infancy. As such, at the present time, there is considerable room for development and redirection.

When put in this perspective, it becomes clear that the corrections professional has a number of opportunities to improve psychological discourse and outcomes for offenders. Although it is clear that there are some barriers to development-i.e. most notably establishing public support-there is considerable potential for expansion and growth in the field of corrections. Drawing on both experience and theory, the corrections professional has a number of tools at his or her disposal to help improve the context of corrections in the United States. Clearly, however, it is up to the individual to utilize these resources such that effective change can be accomplished.

Synthesizing all of the information that has been presented in this investigation, it becomes clear that the one of the most pertinent challenges for the profession over the coming months and years will be to further establish corrections as a true profession. At the present time, public perception of corrections is not very favorable. This is due in part to the fact that most individuals only need a high school diploma to hold a job as a corrections officer. However as the profession grows and expands, it is clear that highly educated professionals will be needed to help develop the field as a professional discipline.

In addition to the fact that the professionalism needs to be instituted in the context of corrections, it is also evident that, at the present time, professionals working in the field are faced with enormous challenges for meeting public expectations and ensuring the fair treatment of the offender. Although current research on the best practices for corrections professionals suggests that there is a need to integrate more theory into practice, it is evident that the specific paradigms that will ensure results have yet to be fully established. As such, professionals entering the field at this time will be called upon to utilize their resources in order to help solve current problems in the field. This will require both commitment to change and dedication to improving the system.

Arguably, the tenuous nature of the field at the present time may serve as the basis for some professionals to shy away from the proposed challenges. However, if one were to frame this issue in a more positive light, it becomes clear that the opportunities for development in this field have never been more prominent. Society needs answers on how to best deal with the issue of crime. Further, offenders need help to resolve the issue that served to perpetuate development of criminal behavior. While many programs have been developed few have worked. Despite this, professionals now have a wealth of theory and practical experience to draw on in creating new programs that could markedly improve how society deals with the issue of crime.

With regard to the issues of ethics and multiculturalism, it is clear that the importance of these topics are only now coming to the forefront of professional attention. While it seems reasonable to argue that as the field of corrections becomes more uniform and professional it will gravitate toward ethical and multicultural policies and practices, in order to facilitate this process, professionals in the field with access and education have an obligation to educate others about these specific issues. Thus, supervisors witnessing unethical acts must consider solutions to the problem that will be permanent.

Clearly, education is the most salient means for improving the practice of corrections in these areas.
Finally, corrections professionals currently entering the field must consider the specific role that they wish to play in developing the system overall. Although many individuals may be satisfied to report for work and receive a paycheck once a week, for those that have taken the time to examine and explore what the profession has to offer, it is clear that there are a plethora of opportunities that can serve as the basis for career development. At the present time, the opportunities for the corrections professional are unlimited. As such, the individual must discern what contributions are necessary and what steps he or she will take to ensure that these changes occur.

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