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Essay on “Participation of Forensic Psychologists in Disciplinary Boards”


One of the elemental human rights allowed to every citizen is his or her privacy. Privacy reveals the civil liberties of an individual’s power on how much of his feelings, thoughts, and other private or delicate information can be revealed to others (Munthe, Radovic & Anckarsäter, 2010). Codes of ethics are created to guard the public and offer direction to professionals in servicing their customers. The basic purpose of professional psychological organizations is to educate professionals on appropriate ethical conduct (Winchester, 2010)). Thereby, practitioners who appreciate the values may experience extended consciousness, value-clarification, and trouble-solving capabilities. These ethical standards also promote accountability, thereby, therapists ought to uphold ethical conduct and encourage their colleagues as well. The privileges accorded to the psychologist-client relationship constitute the conviction that discussions between the client and counseling officer have to be shielded in an adversarial justice system, in case justice is to be provided (O’Donohue, Levensky & Levensky, 2004). In situations where psychologists have been granted privileged discussions in court, they were obligated to preserve the client’s confidence, except where the client had made a mental status or did not insist on the right to privilege. Privacy and its limits are clearly defined in ethical codes for psychologists both in court rulings and statuses. Hence, revelation of a client’s private information or communication may subject the therapist to professional reprimand and civil or criminal liability (Munthe, Radovic & Anckarsäter, 2010). In correctional facilities, correctional psychologist’s main objective is to aid in the lawbreaker’s rehabilitation and reintegration (Winchester, 2010). The counselor also enhances inmate and staff safety by encouraging a healthy institutional environment. Despite becoming a popular discipline for psychology, correction of offenders has been puzzled with ethical dilemmas and conflicts. The key roles of correctional psychologist such as treatment issues, confidentiality, consent, and disciplinary roles have been marred by consistent ethical issues (Elissa, 1998)). This paper will broadly outline the ethical and legal features of confidentiality for psychologists in correctional facilities.


Psychotherapists have ethical and legal responsibilities toward their clients, agency, profession, community and families of their clients (Winchester, 2010). Therefore, clients have rights to ensure they are accorded sufficient information so that they make informed decisions about entering and continuing the therapist-client relationship (Winchester, 2010). Ethical issues may arise given the disputes within these responsibilities. The main goal of psychologists in correctional facilities is to provide rehabilitation for law breakers and focus in application of psychological services to inmates, inmate management, and evaluation of the prison population (Munthe, Radovic & Anckarsäter, 2010). Traditionally, certain criminals were considered for exclusion for some criminal punishment as other offenders due to various mental circumstances. At first, this practice was meant to separate the psychologically ill prisoners from normal prisoners. The Federal government initiated the use of psychiatrists and psychologists with prison institutions to focus on the treatment of inmates for behavioral change (Winchester, 2010). In the late 20th century, the focus for this approach lessened as correctional therapists put more emphasis on the security of the community and institution. The potential dual association of correctional psychologists is one of the key concerns linked with combined institutional control and treatment (Munthe, Radovic & Anckarsäter, 2010). The ethical principles of psychologists in the American Psychological Association code of conduct advice that forensic psychologists ought to avoid contribution in any action that has potentially conflicting roles (Winchester, 2010). The directives for correctional therapists within the bureau of prisons seem to create an environment that can sometimes gravelly weaken the therapeutic objectives and relationship formed between the psychologists and the inmates due to exposure to difficulties of the dual role conflicts. After the psychologists are hired, they are placed in rehabilitation programs where they learn essential correctional perceptions, such as firearms training, inmate review, and inmate search procedures. The psychologists should also assume the role as an evaluator and therapist for parole and release of the incarcerated client (Winchester, 2010). The significance of this relationship is the successful change of indecent behaviors so that reintegration is achieved in society. Despite possessing the combined role of a client’s evaluator and therapist, the psychologist’s perception by the client should not affect his readiness to provide adequate treatment. This is because the client might be tempted to provide the details needed for an effective intervention. Moreover, it is probable that the imprisoned client would wish to misrepresent herself or himself for the reason of being evaluated beneficially. To avoid such situations, defensive mechanisms have been raised to prevent them from releasing vital information needed for an accurate evaluation and effective treatment.

The source of informed consent’s doctrine can be drawn to the individual rights to be liberated from intimidation and unwarranted interference. This is according to the principle which requires that every inmate of sound mind be given the power to determine what to done with his body. Mental health professionals are obligated by their ethics codes to enlighten clients of benefits, risks, and options to the proposed treatment (Munthe, Radovic & Anckarsäter, 2010). Informed consent includes the inmate’s right to be educated of their therapy and make unbiased decisions regarding the treatment process (Elissa, 1998). The possible consent concerns that are relevant and prone to correctional psychologists practice that may therefore, demand their absence in disciplinary committees is the possibility of leading an inmate into consenting while in questioning boards. This is because, in some forensic institutions, an inmate may not be deemed fit to give consent. This situation may lead to a forced consent into treatment. It is a fair supposition that an incarcerated client may dread the way his or her failure to consent to treatment will be inferred. This is the reason that many clients in correctional facilities are in the course of appealing their certainty or anticipating for conditional release. They may feel that failure to cooperate with procedures of treatment may lead them to further punishment and blow off the opportunities for release. In their obligation to assess dangerousness, many therapists will feel that they possess the capacity to make convincing assessments through education, proper training and experience. Naturally, clients long for an accurate evaluation but he may feel that this candid evaluation will not help them, but rather spoil their chances of release (Elissa, 1998). With this reasoning, they may be enticed to lie to the evaluator thereby calling for a secret evaluation in the absence of the psychologists. However, these secret evaluations are only ethically embarked on during urgent situations which are restricted to circumstances with risks of prison escape or internal disorder. Therefore, the call by professional psychologists, which keenly dictate for the need of informed consents among prisoners seems unrealistic thus, should be conducted in their absence.

Psychologist’s prohibition in disciplinary committees is encouraged since prison disciplinary boards are solely accountable for instilling actions that result to inmate’s loss of freedom, transfers to advanced security facilities, and solitary confinement. Psychiatrists have barred themselves from disciplinary committees through their statement of principles not to do any harm. Since they have the court status of persons qualified as experts, the psychiatrists have the obligation to uphold the knowledge of professional, scientific, and legal developments within the extent of their claimed competence. Therefore, these expectations direct them to apply that knowledge within accepted scientific and clinical standards, in selecting procedures and methods of collecting information for treatment, evaluation, consultation or investigation. The exclusion in disciplinary boards therefore gives them the opportunity to document and prepare themselves to make available all the information that form the foundation for their services or evidence, subject to a court order or regulations of evidence. The set to be practiced in such documentation or recording expects that the quality and detail of such certification will be subject to sensible judicial scrutiny; such a standard is the normative set for general disciplinary practice (O’Donohue, Levensky & Levensky, 2004). In a situation where forensic psychologists carry out an examination or involve themselves in treatment of a client to a legal schedule, with foreknowledge that their skilled services will be applied in adjudicative forums, they acquire distinctive responsibility to present the best documentation under the circumstances that;

  • (a) Their obligations and duties with respect to certification of data forming the basis for their proof apply from the instant they know or possess reasonable basis for appreciating that their evidence and data resulting from it are likely to engage into legal-related decisions (Adler, 2004);
  • (b) When providing forensic services, they take on a particular concern to shun undue influence upon their procedures, methods, and products that might come from the legal proceeding by monetary compensation or other gains (Adler, 2004). Therefore by being absent, as an expert of evaluation, the psychologist preserves his professional integrity by probing the issue at hand from the available perspectives, keenly searching for information which will differentially check plausible rival assumptions (O’Donohue, Levensky & Levensky, 2004));
  • (c) They do not provide qualified forensic services to defendants of legal proceedings prior to individual’s representation by a counsel, except for people judicially resolute to handle their representation. Despite most of the forms of data they use are considered hearsay, psychologists attempt to substantiate vital data, which form the foundation for their professional product (Elissa, 1998). In situations where they apply rumored data, therapists have a positive responsibility to appreciate the unconfirmed status of that information and the motives for relying on such data.


We have observed that application of art of psychology in correctional facilities has been marred by ethical conflicts and dilemmas. Having noted the controversies surrounding the role of forensic psychologists, treatment issues, disciplinary and confidentiality tasks, guidelines have been formulated for the practice with the aim of providing a method of monitoring professional behavior in a rehabilitation facility. However, these standards have dealt accordingly with the ethical issues raised, but rather they have resulted to other contradictory principles. The main reason for the exclusion of forensic psychologists in disciplinary boards is for the rationale that correctional facilities fall under correctional administration and not mental programs (Munthe, Radovic & Anckarsäter, 2010). Even if mental health professionals come across mental issues among inmates, it is up to the correctional administration to give them the authority to engage in such a matter. Some of the rules and regulations of psychology practice contradict the art therefore, making it difficult to establish what is acceptable or unacceptable of the practice. Challenges observed in the…

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Checked: 22 Oct 2017
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