Forensic psychology is typically the intersection of psychology and the law, but forensic psychologists can perform many roles so this definition can vary. The field of psychology is booming due to movies and television shows that depict protagonists using psychology to solve the most heinous crimes and are able to predict the criminals’ next move. These dramatizations glorify this career and in reality, these forensic psychologists practice the science of psychology within the realm of criminal justice and civil courts.
Unlike clinical psychologists who are concerned with the assessment, diagnosis, treatment and prevention of mental disorders, the forensic psychologist will be employed for a specific job function and will be of a short duration (Cherry, N. D. ). Majority of the individuals who come in contact with these professionals are court ordered to do so and this makes the job of the forensic psychologist quite tough because of the participants’ unwillingness to co-operate.
During criminal trials forensic psychologist will assist law enforcement professionals in many aspects including the trial phase to remove human error from juries, witnesses, lawyers and judges. The court system is filled with witnesses who have their personal biases which could be detrimental to a criminal case. It is also known that witness testimony is highly unreliable and the American Psychological Association convinced the courts to allow the defendant to challenge the witnesses of their reliability (Wachtel, 2003).
Interesting enough, the forensic psychologist is not permitted to give their opinion of the reliability of the witness; that decision is left up to the jury. As we know the prosecution and the defense team, through jury selection will decide on the jury and both sides may employ the forensic psychologist as a consultant to help determine the best jurors for the case.
The forensic psychologist will provide specific questions for both legal teams in order for the attorneys to ask potential jurors; this process is also known by the Latin phrase “voir dire”. These questions will determine if the potential juror will be biased or if the juror cannot handle the issues brought forward during the case fairly. The forensic psychologist will also pay attention to the potential jurors’ nonverbal cues such as their body language, nodding of their heads or watching their facial expressions.
After the individual goes through the trial process and is found guilty by the jury, he/she becomes part of the U. S. prison population. Within the prison system the forensic psychologist role is multifaceted. The forensic psychologist will at times classify the new inmate to determine where they will be placed within the prison. Offenders such as sex offenders cannot be placed in general population or an inmate with mental health problems may need more supervision and treatment while incarcerated.
The forensic psychologist provides counseling to inmates or ex-offenders for drug education, sex offender treatment, resolution of family problems, crisis intervention, and provides assistance with problems that can arise due to incarceration (Kieliszewski, 2011). The forensic psychologist may manage and run juvenile offender programs and offer counseling to inmates’ families within their own homes. Also the professional may be asked to develop and manage programs to reduce repeat offenders. Forensic psychologists are faced with unique ethical dilemmas within the correctional facilities.
Outside the walls of the prison the psychologist has client confidentiality and cannot disclose any information to anyone but within the walls the professionals must disclose any information to the authorities of any violence towards another inmate or the threat of violence and this is the dilemma the forensic psychologist will face. Some could argue that the forensic psychologists are committing unethical acts by reporting their findings through assessments of inmates or reporting their findings to attorneys and judges from where child assessments that were given and finding the right balance is crucial.
The forensic psychology offers a wide range of career opportunities and individuals who are interested in research may specialize in the developing tests intended to improve the criminal assessments and better to determine insanity. The forensic psychologist may also examine treatments used to treat convicted criminals to determine if the treatment is effective or not. For example, researchers frequently evaluate sex offender rehabilitation programs since sex offenders have a high recidivism rate. Other researchers focus on the effects of abuse and factors contributing to criminal delinquency and violent behavior.
The role of forensic psychology has remained steady for the past 20 years. It’s expected that during the next decade demand for forensic psychologists specializing in research, clinical practice, and consultation will continue to rise (Cherry, N. D. ). The individual entering into this profession has a wide variety of career opportunities, whether it’s working within the court systems, correctional facilities or research just to name a few can be very rewarding.