Category Archives: Victims and treatment

Free access to Sage journals gives you a chance to read all about science and pseudoscience in policing

Once again Sage Journals is throwing its archive open – you can get free access to all Sage journals until 31 October if you register first. A great opportunity to stock up on articles in journals that you or your library don’t subscribe to.

Can I, in particular, recommend you take a look at the latest issue of Criminal Justice and Behavior? It’s a special on “Pseudoscientific Policing Practices and Beliefs” pulled together by guest editor Brent Snook. Scott Lilienfeld and Kristin Landfield’s overview of science and pseudoscience is just ok (I don’t think it’s as good as it could be), but there are useful reviews (among others) of hypnosis in a legal setting (Graham Wagstaff), of detecting deception (Aldert Vrij), and of false confessions (Saul Kassin). These reviews will prove invaluable if you’re new to these areas of research or need a refresher.

Also in this issue, Snook and colleagues examine why criminal profiling is so seductive, when much of what passes for profiling is simply – according to the authors – “smoke and mirrors”. They conclude:

There is a growing belief that profilers can accurately and consistently predict a criminal’s characteristics based on crime scene evidence… We contend that this belief is illusory because a critical analysis of research on CP [criminal profiling] showed that the field lacks theoretical grounding and empirical support.

And there’s an extraordinary and provocative critique of the FBI’s programme to introduce Critical Incident Stress Debriefing for its agents, co-authored by a former agent who was involved in the programme. The authors bemoan the fact that although the business of “law enforcement is inextricably tied to facts, objectivity, organization, and high standards of proof” (p.1342), the FBI did not (according to the authors) apply the same standards when evaluating a stress debriefing programme for its agents. The evidence for the effectiveness of CISD is scant, argue the authors (and there is some evidence that CISD may even be harmful to people exposed to severe trauma). So, the authors explain: “We are thus compelled to consider how an idea so poorly grounded and so seriously discredited came to hold so tenacious a footing in the employee assistance practices of what is arguably the world’s most sophisticated law enforcement agency” (p.1342). Newbold, Lohr and Gist’s concluding comments could serve as an epitaph for the entire issue:

Pseudoscience finds its foothold where the blurring of boundaries allows the imperatives of evidentiary warrant shared by both domains to become compromised. It takes many years of training and experience to become competent as either a law enforcement agent or a psychologist, and either role requires strong focus and strict boundaries to be executed effectively. Police officers who want to play shrink and psychologists who want to play cop run a serious risk of blurring those boundaries.

Here are the contents in full:

  • Brent Snook – Introduction to the Special Issue: Pseudoscientific Policing Practices and Beliefs
  • Scott O. Lilienfeld and Kristin Landfield – Science and Pseudoscience in Law Enforcement: A User-Friendly Primer
  • Michael G. Aamodt – Reducing Misconceptions and False Beliefs in Police and Criminal Psychology
  • John Turtle and Stephen C. Want – Logic and Research Versus Intuition and Past Practice as Guides to Gathering and Evaluating Eyewitness Evidence
  • Brent Snook, Richard M. Cullen, Craig Bennell, Paul J. Taylor, and Paul Gendreau – The Criminal Profiling Illusion: What’s Behind the Smoke and Mirrors?
  • Graham F. Wagstaff – Hypnosis and the Law: Examining the Stereotypes
  • William G. Iacono – Effective Policing: Understanding How Polygraph Tests Work and Are Used
  • Saul M. Kassin – Confession Evidence: Commonsense Myths and Misconceptions
  • Aldert Vrij – Nonverbal Dominance Versus Verbal Accuracy in Lie Detection: A Plea to Change Police Practice
  • Katherine M. Newbold, Jeffrey M. Lohr, and Richard Gist – Apprehended Without Warrant: Issues of Evidentiary Warrant for Critical Incident Services and Related Trauma Interventions in a Federal Law Enforcement Agency
  • David C. Flagel and Paul Gendreau – Commentary: Sense, Common Sense, and Nonsense

Research reports round-up

ex libris gul law reports collectionSome of the criminal justice-related reports that have caught my eye in the last few weeks:

Communities

Crime and Communities Review (UK, published 18 June, Cabinet Office): A major review examining how to better engage communities in the fight against crime and raise public confidence in the Criminal Justice System – link to pdf downloads.

Gangs at the Grassroots: Community solutions to street violence (UK, published 17 July 2008, New Local Government Network) – pdf

Investigations

Witness and victim experience survey: early findings (UK, published 3 July 200, Ministry of Justice) – pdf

Enhancing Law Enforcement Response to Victims: A 21st Century Strategy (US, International Association of Chiefs of Police) – pdf (Hat tip Docuticker)

First Response to Victims of Crime (US, published April 2008, National Sheriffs Association) – pdf (Hat tip Docuticker)

Police Enforcement Strategies to Prevent Crime in Hot Spot Areas (US, Department of Justice) – pdf (Hat tip Docuticker)

Serial Murder: Multi-Disciplinary Perspectives for Investigators (US, FBI Behavioral Analysis Unit) – pdf (Hat tip Docuticker)

Prisons

International profile of women’s prisons (UK, published April 2008, Kings College London for HM Prison Service) – pdf (Hat tip Intute)

Prosecuting Sexual Violence in Correctional Settings: Examining Prosecutors’ Perceptions (US, published May 2008, American University, WCL Research Paper, via SSRN)

Juveniles

Violence by Teenage Girls: Trends and Context (US, published May 2008, US Department of Justice) – pdf (Hat tip Docuticker)

Differential Response to Reports of Child Abuse and Neglect (US, published February 2008, Child Welfare Information Gateway) – pdf (Hat tip Docuticker)

Photo credit: ex_libris_gul, Creative Commons License

Recent podcasts relevant to psychology and crime

MP3onred From the Leonard Lopate Show:

  • Are Sex Offender Laws Working? (20 December): “US sex offender laws may do harm than good, according to a recent report from Human Rights Watch. Strict notification laws and residency requirements don’t reflect the reality of the risks children face, may not protect victims, and violate the basic human rights of former offenders.”
  • Exonerated: Life After Wrongful Imprisonment (The Leonard Lopate Show: 19 December): “Barry Gibbs spent 19 years in prison for a murder he didn’t commit. David Shepard was wrongfully convicted of rape, and served 10 years of a 30-year sentence. Both were exonerated. But exoneration comes with its own set of challenges. Mr. Gibbs, Mr. Shepard, and Innocence Project attorney Vanessa Potkin explain why returning to the outside world is so difficult…and whether anything can make up for the years lost in prison.”
  • JFK’s Assassination, 44 Years Later (The Leonard Lopate Show: 23 November): “Today, 70 percent of Americans think Lee Harvey Oswald did not act alone. Robert Stone’s new documentary about JFK’s assassination, “Oswald’s Ghost,” reviews what happened on November 22, 1963 and how that day’s events have become mythologized in American society.”
  • The Art of Political Murder (The Leonard Lopate Show: 15 November): Bishop Juan Gerardi was a Guatemalan human rights leader who was killed after he published a report on Guatemala’s army-led genocidal campaign in the 1980s and 90s. Francisco Goldman’s account of what happened is The Art of Political Murder: Who Killed the Bishop?

A couple of videos via Sandra Kiume’s Channel N Blog:

  • Clinical Reality of Violence Against Women (Emory University Regional Training Center): “…understanding the dynamics of domestic violence by enhancing their response and intervention skills with patients who are victims of domestic violence.”
  • Adolescent Sex Offenders (Yale Psychiatry): “In a Yochelson Lecture, Roy O’Shaughnessy, M.D., Head, Division Forensic Psychiatry of the University of British Columbia (UBC) discusses the psychopathy, treatment and management of adolescent sex offenders. Interesting, and challenging to pop culture assumptions and values.”

From the BBC:

  • Assignment – The internet chatroom murder (22 November): “This week on Assignment, a story of lust, deception and betrayal on the internet. It tells the extraordinary story of a middle-aged factory worker who undergoes a virtual and very real transformation after he goes online – a transformation which ends in murder.”

And finally, over at The Psych Files:

  • The Effects of Video Game and Media Violence (7 December): “What do psychologists think about the effects of violent video games and violence in the media on viewers? Does it lead people to be more aggressive? More violent? Or is it the other way around?”

Quick links – investigations, courtroom, punishment, profiling and more

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Quick links from around the web and blogosphere:

Investigations and courtroom :

The Sunday Times (25 Nov) reports on a new facial morphing technique called EvoFIT “that transforms the Photofit faces of criminal suspects into animated caricatures up to seven times more likely to be recognised than standard likenesses”. The system was developed by UK psychologists, one of whom commented that using the new system leads to “…a massive jump in the level of recognition [which] is really reliable”. Lots more information including plenty of downloadable papers on the EvoFIT webpages .

The Eyewitness Identification Reform blog highlights scholarly commentary on the effectiveness of cross-examination for getting at the truth of eyewitness evidence.

Following a detailed and extensively researched analysis, Prof. Epstein [the author of the commentary] concludes that the highly revered truth-seeking tool of cross-examination, while perhaps effective at rooting out liars, is utterly ineffective at uncovering the truth when faced with a witness who is confident, but honestly mistaken about what he or she remembers – which accounts for the majority of cases in which mistaken identification has led to wrongful conviction.

Mo over at Neurophilosophy (a great blog that doesn’t often post on forensic issues) discusses research on creating false memories by doctoring photographs. Participants who saw altered images had different memories of the events in the photographs:

For example, those participants shown the doctored photograph of [a] protest in Rome…in which figures placed in the foreground give the impression of violence, rated the event as being significantly more violent and negative than it actually was. In their comments, they also provided false details, such as conflicts, damages, injuries and casualties that did not appear in the photos and were not documented at the event.

The whole issue of Applied Cognitive Psychology is about ‘cognition and the media’ and includes other papers on the fallability of memory, which will be of use to anyone interested in eyewitness memory.

Anne Reed at the fabulous Deliberations blog reports on research into the Grim Power of Grim Evidence. Apparently “jurors presented with gruesome evidence, such as descriptions or images of torture and mutilation, are up to five times more likely to convict a defendant than jurors not privy to such evidence.”

Punishment:

The ever-interesting Karen Franklin comments on juvenile detention, and starts by posing some simple questions with disturbing answers. Did you know, for instance, that only two nations sentence children to life in prison? According to Karen, they are Israel, with 7 child lifers, and the USA, with an astonishing 2,387 child lifers.

Michael Connolly at Corrections Sentencing offers a detailed discussion of an article which “calls for broad application of empirical psychology to the study of the motive behind punishments”. The article is in press and due to appear in 2008.

  • Reference: Carlsmith, K.M., & Darley, J.M. (in press). Psychological aspects of retributive justice. Advances in Experimental Social Psychology, M. Zanna, Ed. (Elsevier, NY, 2008) vol. 41.

Psychopaths:

The criminal psychopath is the topic of a post at Top Two Inches, and over at the Deception Blog, a comment on research on whether psychopathic liars give themselves away through their verbal behaviour.

Profiling:

Crimson Shadows posts (with permission) the full text of ex-FBI profiler John Douglas’s response to Malcolm Gladwell’s article on profiling that appeared in the New Yorker last month. Douglas argues that Gladwell’s article misrepresents the science and practice of profiling.

Miscellany:

Terrific analysis of an fMRI study linking paedophilia to differences in the brain over at the Brain Ethics blog,  critiquing both the method and the interpretation of the results of this study.  In sum “at the least, just because the brain shows a difference, one cannot conclude anything beyond this about causation.”

The BPS Research Digest has also included a couple of forensically relevant posts recently: detecting feigned mental retardation and inter-ethnic violence.

As well as the post on juvenile detention mentioned above, Karen Franklin’s posted a lot of other good stuff recently too, including pointing us towards a Canadian news article on false confessions, commenting on how the UK is considering stricter controls on the use of expert scientific evidence, and a great piece on tracking serial killers in South Africa.

Romeo Vitelli’s Providentia blog reports on an intervention program for young victims of violence, child abuse and brain development, and an usual case of car fetishism.

Photo credit: bigeoino, Creative Commons License

“Reforms aim to dispel rape myths and increase convictions”

no2rapeThe UK Government has finally published details of proposed reforms to the criminal justice system, in a bid do something to increase the appalling 6% conviction rate for rape. I can’t find a link to the official Government announcement, but the Guardian (29 Nov) is one of many news media to report the details, which include informing jurors of the range of responses that victims may have to rape:

Juries are to be told how rape victims typically respond in an attempt to dispel “rape myths” which ministers believe are contributing to plummeting conviction rates for the crime. A panel of judges, doctors and academics will start work next month on the project, which will attempt to put together a package to inform the jury without interfering with the fairness of a trial.

… Ministers initially proposed allowing expert witnesses to give evidence to the jury on how rape victims behave. But that idea, which circuit judges described as a “minefield”, has been shelved. The panel is expected to recommend an information booklet, a video or directions from the judge. A proposal for a statutory definition of “capacity to consent” – to deal with situations where a woman was so drunk it was questionable whether she had the power to say yes or no – has also been scrapped.

There is plenty of research on rape myths and a fair amount on jurors’ decision making in rape and sexual assault trials (see below the fold). And the issue of ‘capacity to consent’ has received recent attention: research sponsored by the Economic and Social Research Centre and completed last year by UK researchers Dr Emily Finch and Dr Vanessa Munro suggests that juries are ‘unsympathetic’ to women who make allegations of rape following a period of heavy drinking : Finch and Munro “found that jurors often took the view that it was ‘reasonable’ for a man to assume that silence represented sexual consent, even if the silence was due to the fact that the woman was totally intoxicated”.

So efforts to address jurors’ stereotypes about rape and rape victims are welcome. But as the Fawcett Society points out, attrition in rape cases starts early. The vast majority of allegations of rape don’t even get as far as the courtroom. The UK Home Office published an excellent report earlier this year, in which the authors examined patterns of attrition in rape cases (Feist et al., 2007). They found that nearly 70% of cases were lost between the victims’ allegation being recorded and a suspect being charged, with the main reasons being the victim withdrawing her* complaint, perhaps because she lost confidence in the police investigation, and the police failing to find enough evidence to charge a suspect. Rape is a difficult crime to investigate, but the Feist et al. findings indicated variation in attrition rates across police forces, suggesting that local practices might in part contribute to the failure to bring rapists to justice. Reforms need to address the care of victims of rape and the investigation of sexual assault cases if real progress is to be made in increasing our pitiful conviction rapes.

* the Feist et al. research only covered investigations of allegations of rape of females

References:

Further references on rape myths and jury decision making below the fold.

Photo credit: steenface!, Creative Commons License

Continue reading “Reforms aim to dispel rape myths and increase convictions”

Quick links

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Having neglected this blog somewhat in recent weeks I find myself now overwhelmed with interesting snippets from around the web and blogosphere. Here are just a few that caught my eye:

The Eyewitness Reform Blog reports on a conviction “overturned for failure to “seriously consider” expert testimony on eyewitness factors”: “The court didn’t go as far as to say that it was error to exclude the expert testimony, but citing Illinois case law, found that it was error to fail to provide a reasoned basis for its exclusion.”

The Eyewitness Reform Blog also highlights the recent publication of an article in the NIJ Journal on making eyewitness identification in police line-ups more reliable.

Convicted conman Frank Abnegale claims that a combination of technology and living in “an extremely unethical society” has made crime easier: “You can build all the security systems in the world; you can build the most sophisticated technology, and all it takes is one weak link — someone who operates that technology — to bring it all down” (hat tip to Slashdot).

Some great posts from Romeo Vitelli at Providentia recently, including the tale of a psychotic priest killer, an exorcism case in Singapore, the killer who boasted about how easy it was to lie to psychiatrists, Guy de Maupassant’s struggle with neurosyphilis and two articles on shell shock.

Scott Henson over at Grits for Breakfast has also had some interesting posts up in the last few weeks, including a critique of the “policy many police and probation departments have adopted of rounding up all the registered sex offenders in their community into custody on Halloween night to keep them from having children come to their door” (see also Karen Franklin’s post) and a comment on the fact that although Americans are less likely to be victims of crime, their fear of crime just keeps rising.

Forensic psych Karen Franklin highlights some interesting (and free) articles on sex offending in the journal Sexual Offender Treatment. Whilst I’m talking about Karen, I’ll point you to a great little piece she wrote in September in which she demolishes a few myths and provides some practical advice about what it takes to become a forensic psych.

Michael Connolly at Corrections Sentencing points us towards the impressive set of evaluation resources over at the Bureau of Justice Assistance.

Carnival Against Sexual Violence 34 is up at Abyss2Hope.

Photo credit: bigeoino, Creative Commons License

New report shows link between social injustice and the experience of crime

From the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies at King’s College London, a press release (25 Oct) announces the publication of a new report on victims of crime and social injustice:

The experience of social injustice is concentrated among the poorest and most vulnerable, according to a report published today … Victims of crime living on low incomes are substantially more likely to experience a range of civil legal problems… The findings show:

  • A strong association between criminal victimisation, social exclusion and people experiencing a broad range of civil justice problem. The `socially excluded’ appears to be at particular risk
  • Socially excluded victims were substantially more likely to experience civil problems than non-socially excluded non-victims, with 60 per cent of the former group reporting problems compared to 28 per cent of the latter group.
  • Multiple victimisation and social exclusion are associated with a dramatic increase in vulnerability to civil justice problems.
  • The sense of powerlessness and helplessness often experienced by people who face such problems.

More details in the press release. You can download the whole report here (pdf).

New issue: Journal of Forensic Psychiatry & Psychology 18(4)

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Journal of Forensic Psychiatry & Psychology 18(4) is now online. Follow the link to the publisher’s website for abstracts and access to full text articles.

Contents include:

  • Medical evidence for the purposes of recall to hospital under Section 42(3) of the Mental Health Act 1983 – Ikechukwu Obialo Azuonye
  • Opening communicative space: A Habermasian understanding of a user-led participatory research project – Paul Godin; Jacqueline Davies; Bob Heyman; Lisa Reynolds; Alan Simpson; Mike Floyd
  • Risk typologies of serious harm offenders managed under MAPPA: Mental health, personality disorders, and self-harm as distinguishing risk factors – Joanne Wood
  • Homicide-suicide in the Netherlands: A study of newspaper reports, 1992 – 2005 – M. C. A. Liem; F. Koenraadt
  • Forensic inpatient male sexual offenders: The impact of personality disorder and childhood sexual abuse – Manuela Dudeck; Carsten Spitzer; Malte Stopsack; Harald J. Freyberger; Sven Barnow
  • HoNOS-secure: A reliable outcome measure for users of secure and forensic mental health services – Geoff Dickens; Philip Sugarman; Lorraine Walker
  • Parental schemas in youngsters referred for antisocial behaviour problems demonstrating depressive symptoms – Leen Van Vlierberghe; Benedikte Timbremont; Caroline Braet; Barbara Basile
  • The role and scope of forensic clinical psychology in secure unit provisions: A proposed service model for psychological therapies – Gisli H. Gudjonsson; Susan Young
  • On aggression and violence: An analytic perspective – Colin Campbell

New issue: Journal of Interpersonal Violence 22(11)

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The November 2007 issue of Journal of Interpersonal Violence 22(11) is now online. Follow the link to the publisher’s website for abstracts and access to full text articles.

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Contents include:

  • Assessing the Factors Associated With Sexual Harassment Among Young Female Migrant Workers in Nepal – Mahesh Puri and John Cleland
  • Parricide: An Empirical Analysis of 24 Years of U.S. Data – Kathleen M. Heide and Thomas A. Petee
  • Weapons Used by Juveniles and Adult Offenders in U.S. Parricide Cases – Kathleen M. Heide and Thomas A. Petee
  • Postdicting Arrests for Proactive and Reactive Aggression With the PICTS Proactive and Reactive Composite Scales – Glenn D. Walters, Alice A. Frederick, and Charles Schlauch
  • Acculturation Stress, Drinking, and Intimate Partner Violence Among Hispanic Couples in the U.S. – Raul Caetano, Suhasini Ramisetty-Mikler, Patrice A. Caetano Vaeth, and T. Robert Harris
  • An Analysis of Korean Homicide Crime-Scene Actions – C. Gabrielle Salfati and Jisun Park
  • Structural Validity of the Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Checklist Among College Students With a Trauma History – Jon D. Elhai, Matt J. Gray, Anna R. Docherty, Todd B. Kashdan, and Samet Kose
  • Clinical Epidemiology of Urban Violence: Responding to Children Exposed to Violence in Ten Communities – Ilan Harpaz-Rotem, Robert A. Murphy, Steven Berkowitz, Steven Marans, and Robert A. Rosenheck

New issue: Journal of Forensic Psychiatry & Psychology 18(3)

journals

Journal of Forensic Psychiatry & Psychology 18(3) is now online. Follow the link to the publisher’s website for abstracts and access to full text articles.

Contents include:

  • Theory of mind function, motor empathy, emotional empathy and schizophrenia: A single case study – Karen Addy; Karen Shannon; Kevin Brookfield
  • The development of a scale for measuring offence-related feelings of shame and guilt – Kim Wright; Gisli H. Gudjonsson
  • An audit of the association between the use of antipsychotic medication and bone density measurement in female patients within a special (high security) hospital – Jane Orr; Liz Jamieson
  • A study of forensic psychiatric screening reports and their relationship to full psychiatric reports – Pål Grøndahl; Stein E. Ikdahl; Alv A. Dahl
  • Staff responses to the therapeutic environment: A prospective study comparing burnout among nurses working on male and female wards in a medium secure unit – Rajan Nathan; Andrew Brown; Karen Redhead; Gill Holt; Jonathan Hill
  • Evaluating innovative treatments in forensic mental health: A role for single case methodology? – Jason Davies; Kevin Howells; Lawrence Jones
  • The identification and management of suicide risk in local prisons – Jane Senior; Adrian J. Hayes; Daniel Pratt; Stuart D. Thomas; Tom Fahy; Morven Leese; Andy Bowen; Greg Taylor; Gillian Lever-Green; Tanya Graham; Anna Pearson; Mukhtar Ahmed; Jenny J. Shaw
  • The validity of the Violence Risk Scale second edition (VRS-2) in a British forensic inpatient sample – Mairead Dolan; Rachael Fullam
  • Criminal barristers’ opinions and perceptions of mental health expert witnesses – Ophelia Leslie; Susan Young; Tim Valentine; Gisli Gudjonsson
  • The Michael Stone Inquiry: A somewhat different homicide report – Herschel Prins