Role of Forensic Psychology in Prison Rehabilitation – by Debalina Chatterjee

By | January 8, 2019
Forensic Psychology

Last Updated :

INTRODUCTION

In the words of Thich Naht Hanh- “ When another person makes you suffer, it is because he suffers deeply within himself, and his suffering is spilling over. He does not need punishment; he needs help.”

In this era of technological advancement, which has triggered advancement in all fields like science, arts, communication, the judicial system, and other academic fields; forensic psychology is an offspring of the developments in the study of psychology. There is no doubt that forensic psychology plays an important role in prison rehabilitation. Before discussing its manifold role in rehabilitation it is indispensable to know about this branch of psychology i.e ‘forensic psychology’ and ‘prison rehabilitation’.

Psychology is a social science, as science seeks to explain the phenomenon within its scope. Explanation is the ultimate aim of science. Psychology deals with mental processes and activities of the organism in relation to his environment. It deals with experience and behavior. Psychology seeks to explain the laws of mind. Science uses methods like observation, experiment makes comparison and classification to investigate and collect data. Psychology uses both the scientific procedures of observation and experimentation. Psychology is the systematic study of human behavior under controlled conditions. An experimental method is used for the purpose of investigation and inquiry which deals with three essential characteristics of science such as accuracy, certainty, and generality.

The term ‘psychology’ is derived from two Greek words ‘psyche’ and ‘logus’ which means soul and science respectively. Thus the literal meaning of psychology is the science of the soul. William Wundt defined psychology as the science of conscious experience.

Crime has existed since the beginning of human race. With technological advancement, the concept of crime and methods adopted by criminals in the commission of a crime has undergone a drastic change. On one hand, there are intelligent criminals who exploit science to their advantage, on the other hand, the investigator is no longer able to rely on the age-old art of interrogation to detect crime. In this context, forensic science has found its existence.

Forensic psychology can be defined as the intersection between psychology and the judicial system. It involves understanding fundamental legal principles, particularly with regard to expert witness testimony and the specific content area of concern( i.e competence to stand trial, child custody and visitation, or workplace discrimination), as well as relevant jurisdictional considerations in order to be able to interact appropriately with judges, attorneys, and other legal professionals. It is important to note that an important aspect of forensic psychology is the ability to testify in court as an expert witness, reformulating psychological findings into legal language of the courtroom, providing information to legal personnel in a way that can be understood.

A forensic psychologist can be trained in clinical, social, organizational, or any other branch of psychology. Generally, a forensic psychologist is designated as an expert in a specific field of study. Questions asked by a forensic psychologist are generally not questions and the response must be in a language the court understands. For example, a forensic psychologist is frequently appointed by the court to assess a defendant’s competence to stand trial.

Rehabilitation refers to the process of re-integration into society of a convicted person and the main objective of modern penal policy, to counter habitual offending, which is also known as criminal recidivism. Alternatives to imprisonment also exist, such as community service, probation orders, and other methods entailing guidance and aftercare towards the defender.

METHODS OR TECHNIQUES USED  FOR  PRISON REHABILITATION

Forensic psychology is the branch of psychology concerned with the production and application of psychological knowledge and principles within the legal process. Although forensic psychology is a relatively young discipline, psychology and law have been intertwined since the dawn of recorded history. Today there is hardly any area of law where psychological expert testimony is not implemented.

There is no doubt that forensic psychology has made significant contributions to the execution of justice. Consequently, the forensic psychologist often serves as an expert witness in court. The activities of forensic psychologist include the assessment of competency to stand trial and criminal responsibility, determining the validity of defenses (such as intoxication, amnesia, dissociative identity disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder), predicting violent behavior, assessing eyewitness testimony on appropriate sentencing, profiling and contributing to child custody evaluations. The most important forensic assessment procedures are the forensic interview and psychological testing, while forensic hypnosis is also sometimes used.

In 1981 Professor Lionel Haward, one of the UK’s founding fathers of Criminal Psychology described the four roles that psychologists may perform when they become professionally involved in criminal proceedings. These are given below:

  1. Clinical – Introduction to Forensic Psychology and Criminal Behaviour Clinical In this situation the Forensic Psychologist will usually be involved in the assessment of an individual in order to provide a clinical judgment. The psychologist could use interviews, assessment tools or psychometric tests (i.e. special questionnaires) to aid in his or her assessment. These assessments can inform the police, the courts, or the prison and probation services about the psychological functioning of an individual and can, therefore, influence how the different sections of the criminal justice system process the individual in question. For example, a Forensic Psychologist may be asked to assess individuals in order to determine whether they are fit to stand trial or whether they have a mental illness which means that they would not understand the proceedings.
  2. Experimental – This may involve the Forensic Psychologist performing research in order to inform a case. This can involve carrying out experimental tests in order to illustrate a point or provide further information to the courts (for example, how likely it is that someone can correctly identify an object in the hand of an individual from a distance of 100 meters at twilight). Alternatively, it can involve psychologists providing the court with a summary of current research findings which may be relevant to the case in question.
  3. Actuarial – In this context, the word ‘actuarial’ relates to the use of statistics in order to inform a case. One example of how a Forensic Psychologist may act in an actuarial role is if they are required to present actuarial information relating to the probability of an event occurring to the court. For example, a court may wish to know how likely an offender is to reoffend before the sentence is decided. In such a case, a Forensic Psychologist could be called upon in order to inform the pre-sentence report to the court.
  4. Advisory – In this role the psychologist may provide advice to the police about how to proceed with an investigation. For example, an offender’s profile could inform the investigation, or advice could be provided about how best to interview a particular suspect. Alternatively, a prosecution or defense lawyer may ask for advice on how best to cross-examine a vulnerable witness or another expert witness. This role involves the use of the psychologist’s expertise in order to advice the police, courts or prison and probation services. As you can see, psychologists thus can be used in a variety of different scenarios within the criminal justice system and for a number of different reasons, to aid the work of the criminal justice system. This list of role, however, does not claim to be exhaustive, as there are many more ways in which psychologists play their part. The most well-known roles are:

i) Criminal Investigations: The role of a Forensic Psychologist in Criminal Investigations can take a variety of forms. Professor Laurence Alison of the University of Liverpool has suggested 47 Roles and Functions of a Forensic Psychology a number of ways in which the expertise of psychologist could aid the police and support the work that they do. According to him, “It is important to appreciate that the ways in which psychologists can contribute extends well beyond the process of profiling offenders. Indeed the apprehension of the offender would be assisted by enhancing police decision-making and leadership skills, improving methods of interviewing witnesses and victims, developing accurate methods of recording, collating and analyzing data on preconvictions of offenders, developing suspect prioritization system based on empirical research and enhancing intelligence-led policing and the use of information.” (Alison 2005)

ii) Crime Analysis: Crime Analysis (sometimes also called intelligence analysis) is one field of work which draws upon Forensic Psychological methods. Crime analysts are generally employed by the police in order to analyze crime data to aid the police carry out their roles. One of the most common roles of crime analysts is that of case linkage. This process involves the linkage of crime based on the similarities in the behaviors of the offenders as reported by the victim or as inferred from the crime scene.

iii) Interviewing, Detecting Deception and Eye Witness Research: Most important tasks during the investigation is collecting reliable evidence in order to put together a case of what happened during the event in question. One of the main sources of this evidence is the people who were eyewitnesses to the event. In order to gain this information, an interview needs to be conducted by the investigating police officers with the aim of gaining as much accurate information from the witness as possible. In addition, once the suspect has been identified, he or she too is interviewed in order to gain his or her view of events and to possibly extract a confession to the crime. Hence the interview (whether with a witness or suspect) and the manner in which it is conducted can be crucial to a case.

iv) Police Psychology: The information here, thus far, been concerned with the application of psychological knowledge to assist in the police investigation. However, there are many roles and functions in another field within which the work of Forensic Psychologists, and the application of their knowledge, is useful to the police. Like many organizations, the police force itself presents its own challenges – what type of person makes a good police officer? What is the best way to train police officers? How might the attendance at unpleasant scenes of crime, or repeated exposure to negative events, impact on an individual and how are those affected in this way best treated? This area of work is not a new one – psychologists, both Occupational and Forensic, have been advising the police on such matters for the last twenty-five years or so. Psychologists have contributed their knowledge to the process of police officer recruitment through the introduction of psychometric tests which measure psychological characteristics that may be important in relation to such work.

v) Expert Witness: Court cases can involve complex issues including the presentation of information that is judged to be beyond the knowledge of the average layperson who may sit as a jury. In such situations, the court permits the calling of an expert witness who has expertise relating to the issue in question. Under the circumstances, expert witnesses are permitted to provide their opinion (rather than the facts) on the issue being discussed. The way the expert witnesses are called to the court, however, varies from one jurisdiction to another. The use of the psychologist as an expert witness has, in the past, been constricted by the notion of the expert having to provide information that is beyond the knowledge of the average person. Historically then, the admissibility of a psychologist’s opinion was often limited to provide evidence relating to mental impairment or the psychological functioning of an individual. However, in recent years, the psychologists’ expertise has been increasingly recognized.

Forensic Psychologists and Assessment and Treatment of Offenders Forensic Psychologists, especially within Australia, Canada, and the UK, are heavily involved in work concerning the assessment, rehabilitation, and management of offenders, either in the community or when held in incarceration. This role can involve working with the offenders to reduce their likelihood for re-offending in the future or a more clinical role addressing the psychological needs of offenders.

These psychological needs may (or may not) result from the effects of crime they committed (for example the development of post-traumatic stress disorder or realization of the impact of their offense on their victim) or the environment within which they are held (for example developing depression due to being away from the family or anxiety brought on by respective bullying from other prisoners).

This work can be both varied and challenging in nature. One of the first and ongoing concerns of a Forensic Psychologist working with offenders post-sentence is the assessment of the offenders. This encompasses an in-depth analysis of their risk of re-offending, their risk of harm (to others as well as themselves) and their needs (such as accommodation, finances, and mental health).

CONCLUSION

The main purpose of punishment is to protect society from crime and to reform the criminal so that he can lead a normal life after release. The women face more problems in rehabilitation after being released from the prisons since they completely cut off from their families. Neither the family member accepts them nor do they take advantage of the rehabilitation scheme due to illiteracy and ignorance. It is submitted that the process of rehabilitation should start as soon as female offenders enter the prison and should continue until the ex-prisoner is fully absorbed into society.

It is suggested that the welfare officer should make the women prisoners aware of the Government Rehabilitation Assistance Scheme and helps the deserving ones to secure it. The aid of forensic psychologists should be taken by courts for the purpose of prison rehabilitation and judicial accuracy.


By – Debalina Chatterjee

(Jogesh Chandra Chaudhuri Law College)


SOURCES:

  1. Girishbala Mohanty, Textbook on Psychology II, Kalyani Publishers, 2011
  2. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/B0080430767013875
  3. egyankosh.ac.in/bitstream/123456789/24164/1/Unit-4. Pdf

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