Posts tagged forensic psychology

Starting this month, the federal Bureau of Prisons will transfer the more than 1,000 women incarcerated in the main facility at Danbury to other prisons across the country to convert it to a men’s prison (the small satellite camp immediately adjacent, where I served my time, will still incarcerate approximately 210 women). The bureau says the plan will ease overcrowding in its men’s prisons.

This added geographic separation may as well be a second sentence for these women, who already have to make it through prison with limited visits from family, and for their children, who still need and want their moms. A mother’s incarceration has a devastating effect on her family, and experts say that maintaining contact with a parent in prison is critical to a child’s well-being. One in 28 children has a parent in prison today, and Danbury houses the mothers of at least 700 children.

The Bureau of Prisons, which is part of the Justice Department, plans to send most women from Danbury to a prison in Alabama, and possibly to other ones farther afield. For many families these new locations might as well be the moon.

For Women, a Second Sentence

File this under unintended punishment, truely (it’s only a pun after the next sentence). I couldn’t make it through the 1st episode of the show, but this article makes up for any bad taste it left me. Important and understudied concepts, notable points and bringing to light a more reasonable alternative. However, emotional tugs, as factual as they may be, are as good as whispering at a cockfight, girl.  You gotta hit ‘em upfront with numbers, and ones more current than 2008, preferably factoring in what the feds used to come up with the initial proposal. This coulda been an easy one.

“Spanking and Crime Rates”
In an effort to understand increasing & (most recently) decreasing crime rates, researchers look at a wide range of variables that may have effected the shift - like economics, population, new policies, police presence. More recently we are hearing about controversial public health theories or environmental theories that are gaining support. But tonight, we just want to talk about spankins.
Dr. Christian Pfeiffer, over in Germany has found a “correlation between declining rates of children being spanked (or otherwise punished physically) and subsequent decreases in violent crime” and further, that "religiosity leads to more frequent spanking". 

People who as children experienced the “powerlessness” of frequent spankings report a disproportionately greater interest later in life to own guns, Mr Pfeiffer says. They also demand more draconian prison sentences, including the death penalty, for convicted criminals. And they seem more prone to violence themselves. 

There must be a place between beating children and giving them all gold stars, right? Germany & Scandinavia apparently know about it and the data seems to back it up.

Spanking and Crime Rates

In an effort to understand increasing & (most recently) decreasing crime rates, researchers look at a wide range of variables that may have effected the shift - like economics, population, new policies, police presence. More recently we are hearing about controversial public health theories or environmental theories that are gaining support. But tonight, we just want to talk about spankins.

Dr. Christian Pfeiffer, over in Germany has found a “correlation between declining rates of children being spanked (or otherwise punished physically) and subsequent decreases in violent crime” and further, that "religiosity leads to more frequent spanking"

People who as children experienced the “powerlessness” of frequent spankings report a disproportionately greater interest later in life to own guns, Mr Pfeiffer says. They also demand more draconian prison sentences, including the death penalty, for convicted criminals. And they seem more prone to violence themselves. 

There must be a place between beating children and giving them all gold stars, right? Germany & Scandinavia apparently know about it and the data seems to back it up.

Brain Scanning for Recidivism
So, we all love the work that neuroscientist Kent Kiehl and his group does involving fMRI and incarcerated offenders, right? He’s the only guy I know out there workin’ the beat, going door to door (prison to prison), uphill both ways, not really. ok really (science drama), with a mobile scanner collecting brain scan data from prisoners. This week, his latest study is all over the place with headlines parading how this technique can predict who will reoffend. And it’s not way off. 
The idea: it’s all about impulsivity. The data links those with low activity in the ACC and poor impulse control…and:

Inmates with relatively low anterior cingulate activity were roughly twice as likely as inmates with high anterior cingulate activity to be rearrested for a felony offense within 4 years of their release, even after controlling for other behavioral and psychological risk factors.

Correlations are cool obvs, since they allow for predictions to be made, but this doen’t imply causality or tell us anything about the underlying factors that spur the relationship. Kiehl tells us this is not where near real world use, but it will be really interesting when the results from his entire group of 3000 inmates is processed, vs the 96 for this study (which is still a lot for fMRI work). We can talk about issues pertaining to beating the scanner then. Soon, we can compare old school nelly forensic psych assessment tools to the scans for risk assessment and seeing how these findings will effect sentencing (does this negate or reinforce mandatories?), probationary proceedings or even program development. I have a feeling a matrix design is coming on.
[via, img: mine]

Brain Scanning for Recidivism

So, we all love the work that neuroscientist Kent Kiehl and his group does involving fMRI and incarcerated offenders, right? He’s the only guy I know out there workin’ the beat, going door to door (prison to prison), uphill both ways, not really. ok really (science drama), with a mobile scanner collecting brain scan data from prisoners. This week, his latest study is all over the place with headlines parading how this technique can predict who will reoffend. And it’s not way off. 

The idea: it’s all about impulsivity. The data links those with low activity in the ACC and poor impulse control…and:

Inmates with relatively low anterior cingulate activity were roughly twice as likely as inmates with high anterior cingulate activity to be rearrested for a felony offense within 4 years of their release, even after controlling for other behavioral and psychological risk factors.

Correlations are cool obvs, since they allow for predictions to be made, but this doen’t imply causality or tell us anything about the underlying factors that spur the relationship. Kiehl tells us this is not where near real world use, but it will be really interesting when the results from his entire group of 3000 inmates is processed, vs the 96 for this study (which is still a lot for fMRI work). We can talk about issues pertaining to beating the scanner then. Soon, we can compare old school nelly forensic psych assessment tools to the scans for risk assessment and seeing how these findings will effect sentencing (does this negate or reinforce mandatories?), probationary proceedings or even program development. I have a feeling a matrix design is coming on.

[via, img: mine]

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"What happens to your home’s value when a registered sex offender moves in next door?" Well, turns out it drops about 12%.

The picture gets even bleaker when you consider that sex offenders affect not only the value of adjacent properties, but the value of other homes nearby. On average, homes within a 0.1-mile radius of a registered sex offender drop in value by 4 percent. [via Slate]

Keep in mind the range in the stats covers serious offenders to wily sexting teens. It’d be nice if Slate would’ve specified the tier (according to the Walsh Act & Megans law) of sex offender with stats to give a better perspective. Point is one of the unintended punishments of sex offenders effects the community and we are okey-dokey with that, notwithstanding the DoJ report admitting the law does not do what it was intended to do… but at the same time, the states that fail to comply with the laws are penalized with a reduction in their federal criminal justice funding.  Lose/lose.

Classifying Serial Sexual Murder/Murderers.

Keppel and Walter designed a typology system to classify serial sexual murder/murderers back in 1999 that amounted to 4 types: 

  • power-assertive
  • power-reassurance
  • anger-retaliation
  • anger-excitation

They based this made this profiling system up by rating the degree of “anger and power exhibited by the offender in their criminal and noncriminal lives”, but this system was never empirically tested, until now.

…assessing the validity of this model involved examining the crimes and backgrounds of 53 serial sexual murderers to determine if the categories proposed by Keppel and Walter could be identified. 

No evidence of highly co-occurring behaviors/characteristics from Keppel and Walter’s proposed categories was found, indicating that the classification system is potentially invalid. [via]

No really, test ‘em.

Juvenile Arrest Data Quality in New York State’s Incident Based Reporting System, Final Report 

When an IBR (Incident-Based Reporting) participating agency closes a reported incident with an arrest of a juvenile, a release status is reported for each arrestee. The release status provides information on what type of police action was taken against the arrestee after he/she was identified as the offender. 

New York State IBR has three release statuses: Diverted to Counseling/Treatment Program, Handled within the Department, and Referred to Criminal Court, Juvenile/Family Court or Probation Intake.  

The most recent info released in 2011 gives just an idea of what the counseling or treatment program’s load was like. Also, 184 of these were categorized as “violent crimes”, with no info on the sentence breakdown.

Missed one: false confessions.
Most of us are familiar with certain legal, psychologically coercive interrogation techniques that elicit false confessions - like bold face lies from detectives (“we found your DNA on the knife”), as well as ones that fall under police misconduct like lengthy interrogations without food or water, pursuing custodial interviews with juveniles without an interested guardian present or physical abuse, but we shouldn’t let uneducated juries slip under the radar when speaking of wrongful convictions and confessions. Some of the findings juries come up with despite reason, evidence or just common sense, are outrageous. 

Shockingly, there are times when a confession even trumps irrefutable scientific physical evidence. Kassin notes that there are 19 cases on record ­— and perhaps many more — where there is a confession followed by DNA that contradicts that confession. One South Carolina case, where he was an expert witness, was featured on “Dateline” last July. Billy Wayne Cope was accused of murdering his 12­ year ­old daughter, Amanda. He had been isolated for three days and interrogated. Transcripts of the interrogation show that he denied killing his daughter 650 times. He was told he failed a lie detector test that he in fact had asked for. Ultimately, he confessed to committing the murder. The lab results, which came back several weeks later, showed that the girl was also sexually assaulted and the semen and saliva did not match Cope. Sometime after that, the DNA was run through CODIS, a computer software program that operates local, state and national databases of DNA profiles from convicted offenders, unsolved crime scene evidence and missing persons. A match was made to a known sex offender, James Sanders, who was in the area. Yet Cope was prosecuted and convicted anyway, as a co­conspirator with Sanders, even though Sanders had no idea who Cope was. That was six years ago. Cope remains imprisoned. [via]

I sat down with Saul Kassin when he first came to John Jay to talk about his work, he’s a long time major player in this area. Here he is talking about the ramifications of false confessions at the Vera Institute. Definitely worth a watch.
img: California Innocence Project via MJ

Missed one: false confessions.

Most of us are familiar with certain legal, psychologically coercive interrogation techniques that elicit false confessions - like bold face lies from detectives (“we found your DNA on the knife”), as well as ones that fall under police misconduct like lengthy interrogations without food or water, pursuing custodial interviews with juveniles without an interested guardian present or physical abuse, but we shouldn’t let uneducated juries slip under the radar when speaking of wrongful convictions and confessions. Some of the findings juries come up with despite reason, evidence or just common sense, are outrageous. 

Shockingly, there are times when a confession even trumps irrefutable scientific physical evidence. Kassin notes that there are 19 cases on record ­— and perhaps many more — where there is a confession followed by DNA that contradicts that confession. One South Carolina case, where he was an expert witness, was featured on “Dateline” last July. Billy Wayne Cope was accused of murdering his 12­ year ­old daughter, Amanda. He had been isolated for three days and interrogated. Transcripts of the interrogation show that he denied killing his daughter 650 times. He was told he failed a lie detector test that he in fact had asked for. Ultimately, he confessed to committing the murder. The lab results, which came back several weeks later, showed that the girl was also sexually assaulted and the semen and saliva did not match Cope. Sometime after that, the DNA was run through CODIS, a computer software program that operates local, state and national databases of DNA profiles from convicted offenders, unsolved crime scene evidence and missing persons. A match was made to a known sex offender, James Sanders, who was in the area. Yet Cope was prosecuted and convicted anyway, as a co­conspirator with Sanders, even though Sanders had no idea who Cope was. That was six years ago. Cope remains imprisoned. [via]

I sat down with Saul Kassin when he first came to John Jay to talk about his work, he’s a long time major player in this area. Here he is talking about the ramifications of false confessions at the Vera Institute. Definitely worth a watch.

img: California Innocence Project via MJ

Re: Nichey nicheness.

Since some of my work will now involve conflict studies relating to neuropsychology, you can expect to find more posts in this area. Most of you already know about this, so I feel dropping a few bread crumbs about what the hell I’m up to, might be fun. To that end, the February 11th ed. of Time Magazine has a decent introductory overview on drones and manages to squeeze in a few words that cut into a specific research interest of mine:

Drones bring that asymmetrical dynamic out into the real world: a drone is the physical avatar of the virtual presence of a real person. They provoke a new kind of anxiety, quiet unlike the nuclear terror of the 1980s or the conspiracy-theory paranoia of the 1990s. They’re a swarming persistent presence, low-level but ubiquitous and above all anonymous.  [via]

Above: A sample of unmanned aerial vehicles, including the LEMV (1), which can hover for weeks at a time, or the Seafox (5) which hunts and destroys floating mines, the Raven (6) which can deliver real time intel or the Nano (2) equipped with a tiny camera weighing only 19 grams. 

If you have anything similar you’d like to share, the inbox is now open.

[Img src Time, Feb 11, 2012, print ed., via]

- I Cannot Tell a Lie by Adrienne Anifant in John Jay’s JusticeMatters, Fall 2012 …which just arrived in the mail a few days ago. (I’ve said it a hundred times, amazing faculty [srsly, none better] but the admin could use a trailer load of help.)
Fascinating article about Professor Maria Hartwig’s work towards the effectiveness of interrogation techniques based on “embodied cognition” and new approaches for detecting deception which seek to, “…reduce false accusations, wrongful convictions, lengthy appeals and the concomitant stress and anxiety to the accused and their families.” Her recent work is funded by the FBI/High-Value Detainee Interrogation Group. Clearly, I’d love to meet her. So maybe I WILL. Operation cold email awesome people in effect. Boom. 

- I Cannot Tell a Lie by Adrienne Anifant in John Jay’s JusticeMatters, Fall 2012 …which just arrived in the mail a few days ago. (I’ve said it a hundred times, amazing faculty [srsly, none better] but the admin could use a trailer load of help.)

Fascinating article about Professor Maria Hartwig’s work towards the effectiveness of interrogation techniques based on “embodied cognition” and new approaches for detecting deception which seek to, “…reduce false accusations, wrongful convictions, lengthy appeals and the concomitant stress and anxiety to the accused and their families.” Her recent work is funded by the FBI/High-Value Detainee Interrogation Group. Clearly, I’d love to meet her. So maybe I WILL. Operation cold email awesome people in effect. Boom. 

“Monstrous Crimes, Framing, and the Preventive State: The Moral Failure of Forensic Psychiatry"  - International Library of Ethics, Law, and the New Medicine

Monsters and predators frighten, entertain, and disgust us. The idea of a creature that is a volatile mixture of human and animal parts (the monster) triggers our visual and visceral imagination perhaps more than any other image. The fear of predation – literally, eating another’s flesh – disgusts and repels, but like rubberneckers who slow down to witness accidents, our voyeurism seems unconstrained by shame. The monster and the predator threaten us by threatening to rend the social fabric and bring about a state of nature in which, as Hobbes famously wrote, we are engaged in a war of all against all, and life is nasty, brutish and short. We demand that the government and its legal process protect us from the monsters and predators in our midst, which has resulted in a quest for security at the expense of the protection of the rights of citizens that runs parallel with the quest for protection from “terrorists,” as reflected in the epigram to this book. The referent of the “terrorist,” however, is often simply somebody who looks, acts, or talks in a way that is vaguely Middle-Eastern. Similarly, people who look, act, or talk like our vaguely sketched stereotype of what constitutes a sex offender, an image that has come to constitute a monstrous predator, trigger a panic as well (Lancaster 2011a, b). [via, img]

The idea being if dehumanizing terminology is eliminated, it would change our perception of offenders and how treatment or punishment is delivered, creating a more ethical justice system. Changing language so we see humans (not monsters) over educating why certain monstrous acts are performed by some humans…there might be a term for that already and a pair of tall boots to get you through it. 

Monstrous Crimes, Framing, and the Preventive State: The Moral Failure of Forensic Psychiatry"  - International Library of Ethics, Law, and the New Medicine

Monsters and predators frighten, entertain, and disgust us. The idea of a creature that is a volatile mixture of human and animal parts (the monster) triggers our visual and visceral imagination perhaps more than any other image. The fear of predation – literally, eating another’s flesh – disgusts and repels, but like rubberneckers who slow down to witness accidents, our voyeurism seems unconstrained by shame. The monster and the predator threaten us by threatening to rend the social fabric and bring about a state of nature in which, as Hobbes famously wrote, we are engaged in a war of all against all, and life is nasty, brutish and short. We demand that the government and its legal process protect us from the monsters and predators in our midst, which has resulted in a quest for security at the expense of the protection of the rights of citizens that runs parallel with the quest for protection from “terrorists,” as reflected in the epigram to this book. The referent of the “terrorist,” however, is often simply somebody who looks, acts, or talks in a way that is vaguely Middle-Eastern. Similarly, people who look, act, or talk like our vaguely sketched stereotype of what constitutes a sex offender, an image that has come to constitute a monstrous predator, trigger a panic as well (Lancaster 2011a, b). [via, img]

The idea being if dehumanizing terminology is eliminated, it would change our perception of offenders and how treatment or punishment is delivered, creating a more ethical justice system. Changing language so we see humans (not monsters) over educating why certain monstrous acts are performed by some humans…there might be a term for that already and a pair of tall boots to get you through it. 

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Discrepancies in the lit, I

A recent paper looking at empathy between sadistic and non-sadistic sexual offenders indicates that sexual sadism is a “deviant pattern of sexual arousal” but has no relation to a deficit in empathy. 

According to this perspective, sexual sadists can commit acts of degradation and humiliation not because they are unable to comprehend or feel what they are inflicting on their victims but because they achieve a hedonic state through such acts of sexualized violence.

The present results seem to contradict Kirsch and Becker’s (2007) hypothesis that sexual sadists may not suffer from impairments in cognitive empathy, but they may lack an affective response to their victims’ distress. 

Oh, I’d say there’s an affect response. Just not that one.

photographyprison:

Michael Shaw at @BagNewsNotes: “This is not only one of the saddest, damning and most ironic photos I’ve ever seen, but it’s a process I, as a clinical psychologist, would refuse to participate in.”
Photo by Lucy Nicholson (larger photo set at MSNBC)

.
I shared some feelings about these “therapy cages" in 2010. 

Jeffrey Metzner, a Colorado psychiatrist(and a noted “advocate” of prisoners with mental illness and former chair of the APA Committee on Judicial Action) who has advised the court-appointed special master overseeing mental healthcare in California prisons, said the enclosures offerbetter security and more freedom of movement than alternatives (…).

This alternative, Dr. Metzner?

Metzner also advised prison officials to refer to the enclosures as therapeutic modules, not cages. “The name is important, because if you call them cages, people inside might feel like animals and respond accordingly,” he said.

photographyprison:

Michael Shaw at @BagNewsNotes: “This is not only one of the saddest, damning and most ironic photos I’ve ever seen, but it’s a process I, as a clinical psychologist, would refuse to participate in.”

Photo by Lucy Nicholson (larger photo set at MSNBC)

.

I shared some feelings about these “therapy cages" in 2010. 

Jeffrey Metzner, a Colorado psychiatrist(and a noted “advocate” of prisoners with mental illness and former chair of the APA Committee on Judicial Action) who has advised the court-appointed special master overseeing mental healthcare in California prisons, said the enclosures offerbetter security and more freedom of movement than alternatives (…).

This alternative, Dr. Metzner?

Metzner also advised prison officials to refer to the enclosures as therapeutic modules, not cages. “The name is important, because if you call them cages, people inside might feel like animals and respond accordingly,” he said.

"Supreme Court says states may not impose mandatory life sentences on juvenile murderers"

The divided SCOTUS (5-4 ruling) decided that mandatory life without parole sentences - or death in prison, is cruel and unusual punishment for juveniles, and as such, a violation of the 8th amendment.

“Our decisions rested not only on common sense — on what ‘any parent knows’ — but on science and social science as well,” Kagan wrote…

Although this is a step forward for officially recognizing the “unique status of children and their potential for change”, this decision only applied to mandatory life cases. 

There are 2,300 inmates serving life-without-parole sentences for murders committed before they were 18. But only 79 nationwide were 14 or younger at the time of their crimes, and about 90 percent of those are serving mandatory sentences. [via]

Earlier research I was involved in looked at the age of a juvenile offender, trying them as adults and how that effected sentencing. In an experiment we had 13, 15 and 17 year old kids as convicted murderers. Our mock jury (subject pool) was more likely to punish both the 13 and 17  much harsher -including the death penalty- than the 15 year old.

The reason? The 13 year old was “too damaged” and the 17 year old was “close enough to adulthood and should have known better”. Pretty interesting since all of them are legally minors and share similar developmental/rehabilitation potential.

Regarding trying juveniles as adults, unfair punishment and mitigating circumstances, Kagan goes on:

…in many states, prosecutors have the sole authority to decide when to bypass the juvenile justice system—and mandatory-sentencing schemes often result in “mismatches,” as Kagan put it, between the severity of the penalty and the offender’s culpability. “Under these schemes, every juvenile will receive the same sentence as every other—the 17-year-old and the 14-year-old, the shooter and the accomplice, the child from a stable household and the child from a chaotic and abusive one.” [via]

Rikers Island Fight Club
Turns out, exposing the fight club at Rikers 4 years ago didn’t change too much. If you’re new here, the fight club called “the program” is run by inmates and was condoned by correction officers until 2 staff members went to jail for not intervening when an teenaged inmate was beat to death. Now the program is just supported by C.O.s by way of passive complicity. 

…hundreds of teen inmates (were interviewed) concluded that under a practice known as “the Program,” guards were deputizing inmates, often in the teen jail, and pitting them against one another in fights as a way to keep order and extort them for phone, food, and television privileges.

Maybe because the inmate operated control hierarchy seems to be taking a load off of the staff, officials can’t really be bothered, and that this is somehow acceptable when talking about paying your debt to society for many people reminds me of Kolber’s unintentional punishment paper:

…we use the term “punishment” to capture not only intentional harsh treatment but certain unintentional harsh treatment as well. This means that the widely accepted view that punishment is an intentional infliction requires substantial caveats. It also means that any purported justification of punishment that addresses only the intentional infliction of punishment is woefully incomplete.

The Voice article is here including graphic shots of both teen and adult inmates slashed or beaten. So even if you believe they get what they deserve, you’re still way off as per the definition of punishment under the law. 
Img 1. 

Rikers Island Fight Club

Turns out, exposing the fight club at Rikers 4 years ago didn’t change too much. If you’re new here, the fight club called “the program” is run by inmates and was condoned by correction officers until 2 staff members went to jail for not intervening when an teenaged inmate was beat to death. Now the program is just supported by C.O.s by way of passive complicity. 

…hundreds of teen inmates (were interviewed) concluded that under a practice known as “the Program,” guards were deputizing inmates, often in the teen jail, and pitting them against one another in fights as a way to keep order and extort them for phone, food, and television privileges.

Maybe because the inmate operated control hierarchy seems to be taking a load off of the staff, officials can’t really be bothered, and that this is somehow acceptable when talking about paying your debt to society for many people reminds me of Kolber’s unintentional punishment paper:

…we use the term “punishment” to capture not only intentional harsh treatment but certain unintentional harsh treatment as well. This means that the widely accepted view that punishment is an intentional infliction requires substantial caveats. It also means that any purported justification of punishment that addresses only the intentional infliction of punishment is woefully incomplete.

The Voice article is here including graphic shots of both teen and adult inmates slashed or beaten. So even if you believe they get what they deserve, you’re still way off as per the definition of punishment under the law. 

Img 1

Mentally ill may buy guns with ease: Most U.S. states not forwarding crucial mental health recods to database used to screen gun licenses
It showed that 23 states submitted fewer than 100 mental health histories to the National Instant Criminal Background Check. The database has blocked more than 1.6 million gun-permit applications and sales to felons since it was created in 1999.
Tucson killer Jared Loughner, who killed six people and nearly took the life of Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords in January, was able to pass several background checks to buy his guns, including a Glock he used in January, 2011.
He sailed through the system despite a prior drug-related arrest, an admission of drug use while in the U.S. Army and a suspension from a community college for bizarre behavior.   VIA
If an agency fails to report, aside from a fine, could they be held partially liable? Criminal negligence at the least, no?

Image: Stop the Violence by Francois Robert

Mentally ill may buy guns with ease: Most U.S. states not forwarding crucial mental health recods to database used to screen gun licenses

It showed that 23 states submitted fewer than 100 mental health histories to the National Instant Criminal Background Check. The database has blocked more than 1.6 million gun-permit applications and sales to felons since it was created in 1999.
Tucson killer Jared Loughner, who killed six people and nearly took the life of Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords in January, was able to pass several background checks to buy his guns, including a Glock he used in January, 2011.
He sailed through the system despite a prior drug-related arrest, an admission of drug use while in the U.S. Army and a suspension from a community college for bizarre behavior.   VIA

If an agency fails to report, aside from a fine, could they be held partially liable? Criminal negligence at the least, no?

Image: Stop the Violence by Francois Robert