APA’s Response (thus far) to the Hoffman Report

apa-logoAs promised, this post reports on the fallout from the Hoffman Report that occurred at the APA Annual Convention in Toronto earlier this month. The following summary of events was presented by Susan McDaniel (APA President-Elect) and Nadine Kaslow (APA Past President) in an email to Division officers. I am replicating the most substantive parts of the email here for your interest. If you have feedback on APA’s response (thus far), you can feel free to provide feedback by email at IRFeedback@APA.org.

The original email was sent on August 13 and a follow up email was sent a day later to clarify that psychologists may not participate in any national security interrogations and to expand on the resolution’s other provisions.

Dear Colleagues,

We are writing to report on the results of the American Psychological Association’s (APA) Council of Representatives’ (Council) deliberations on policies to address the major findings of the Independent Review that was conducted by David Hoffman and his colleagues. The Hoffman Report was commissioned by APA’s Board of Directors and found there was undisclosed coordination between some APA officials and Department of Defense psychologists that resulted in less restrictive ethical guidance for military psychologists in national security settings. The findings were extremely troubling and required action.

During our annual convention in Toronto last week, the Council voted overwhelmingly to prohibit psychologists from participating in national security interrogations. The measure passed by a vote of 157-1, with 6 abstentions and 1 recusal. The resolution:

• states that psychologists “shall not conduct, supervise, be in the presence of, or otherwise assist any national security interrogations for any military or intelligence entities, including private contractors working on their behalf, nor advise on conditions of confinement insofar as these might facilitate such an interrogation”;

• redefines the term “cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment” (CIDTP) in the 2006 and 2013 Council resolutions in accordance with the UN Convention Against Torture (rather than with the 1994 U.S. Reservations to this treaty, which were co-opted by the Bush administration to justify harsh interrogation techniques) to ensure it provides protections to everyone, everywhere, including foreign detainees held outside of the United States;

• continues to offer APA as a supportive resource for the ethical practice of psychologists in organizational settings (including those in military and national security roles), while recognizing that they strive to achieve and are responsible to uphold the highest levels of competence and ethics in their professional work;

• urges the U.S. government to withdraw its understandings of and reservations to the UN Convention Against Torture in keeping with the recent recommendation of the UN Committee Against Torture;

• clarifies that the UN Committee Against Torture and the UN Special Rapporteur Against Torture would serve as the authorities for determining whether certain detention settings would fall under the purview of the 2008 petition resolution as operating in violation of international law; and

• ensures that federal officials will be informed of the expanded APA human rights policy, while stipulating prohibited detention settings and requesting that psychologists at these sites be offered deployment elsewhere.

The prohibition does not apply to domestic law enforcement interrogations or domestic detention settings where detainees are under the protection of the U.S. Constitution.

The policy adopted by the Council clarifies that psychologists can only provide mental health services to military personnel or work for an independent third party to protect human rights at national security detention facilities deemed by the United Nations to be in violation of international law, such as the U.N. Convention Against Torture and the Geneva Conventions.
While this new Council resolution invokes Ethical Principle A to “take care to do no harm,” it does not amend the Ethics Code and is not enforceable as a result. However, Council’s implementation plan for the new policy requests that the Ethics Committee consider a course of action to render the prohibition against national security interrogations enforceable under the Ethics Code.

The Council also voted to create a blue-ribbon panel of psychologists and non-psychologist experts to review APA’s Ethics Office and ethics policies and procedures and issue recommendations to ensure our policies are clear and aligned with the very best practices in the field. In addition, we will institute clearer conflict-of-interest policies going forward.
These positive and momentous actions by APA’s Council and Board of Directors are significant and concrete steps toward rectifying past organizational shortcomings. While we are pleased with and humbled by the steps we have taken, we must be deeply reflective about the ways in which we must continue to put front and center protecting human rights and ethically serving the public through our science, practice, education and advocacy efforts.


New Book Release: APA Handbook of Forensic Psychology

APAHandbookMy wonderful colleague and collaborator, Brian Cutler, and I are pleased to announce the release of our latest project, the APA Handbook of Forensic Psychology. This 2-volume series encompasses a total of 33 chapters, written by leading researchers, clinicians, and scholars in the field of forensic psychology.

About the Handbook

The APA Handbook of Forensic Psychology consolidates and advances knowledge about the scientific foundations and practical application of psychology to law, the practice of law, and law-related policy. Drawing upon contemporary psychological research and practice, this Handbook provides a thorough, up-to-date, and far-reaching reference on forensic psychological issues that are important to researchers, practitioners and students in psychology, other social sciences and practice disciplines, and law.

The Handbook is divided into 2 Volumes, each comprised of 3 sections:

Volume 1 (Individual and Situational Influences in Criminal and Civil Contexts)

  • Forensic Evaluation and Treatment in Criminal Cases
  • Individual and Situational Predictors of Criminal Behavior
  • Applications of Forensic Psychology in Civil Cases

Volume 2 (Criminal Investigation, Adjudication, and Sentencing Outcomes)

  • Victim and Offender Groups
  • Criminal Investigations and Jury Trials
  • Sentencing and Incarceration

Table of Contents

Volume 1: Individual and Situational Influences in Criminal and Civil Contexts

I. Forensic Evaluation and Treatment in Criminal Cases

  1. Foundational Aspects of Forensic Mental Health Assessment
    Kirk Heilbrun and Casey D. LaDuke
  2. Forensic Assessment Instruments
    Richard Rogers and Chelsea E. Fiduccia
  3. Risk Assessment and Communication
    Laura S. Guy, Kevin S. Douglas, and Stephen D. Hart
  4. Legal Insanity and Mens Rea Defenses
    Ira K. Packer
  5. Criminal Competencies
    Daniel C. Murrie and Heather Zelle
  6. Mental Health Treatment of Criminal Offenders
    Barry Rosenfeld, Jacqueline Howe, Ashley Pierson, and Melodie Foellmi
  7. Capital Case Considerations
    David DeMatteo, Michael Keesler, Megan Murphy, and Heidi Strohmaier

II. Individual and Situational Predictors of Criminal Behavior

  1. Criminal Behavior
    Shelley L. Brown, Shannon Gottschall, and Craig Bennell
  2. Psychopathy
    Kevin S. Douglas, Natalia L. Nikolova, Shannon E. Kelley, and John F. Edens
  3. Substance Use and Crime
    David DeMatteo, Sarah Filone, and Jennie Davis
  4. Sexual Offending
    Michael C. Seto, Drew A. Kingston, and Skye Stephens
  5. Intimate Partner Violence
    Tonia L. Nicholls and John Hamel

III. Applications of Forensic Psychology in Civil Cases

  1. Child Custody and Access
    Marc J. Ackerman and Jonathan W. Gould
  2. Personal Injury and Other Tort Matters
    Eric Y. Drogin, Leigh D. Hagan, Thomas J. Guilmette, and Lisa D. Piechowski
  3. Employment Discrimination
    Margaret S. Stockdale, Katherine A. Sliter, and Leslie Ashburn-Nardo
  4. Civil Competencies
    Douglas Mossman and Helen M. Farrell

Volume 2: Criminal Investigation, Adjudication, and Sentencing Outcomes

I. Victim and Offender Groups

  1. Children as Witnesses
    Debra Ann Poole, Sonja P. Brubacher, and Jason J. Dickinson
  2. Juvenile Offenders
    Jennifer L. Woolard, Sarah Vidal, and Erika Fountain
  3. Elders and the Justice System
    Eve M. Brank and Lindsey E. Wylie
  4. Female Offenders
    Tonia L. Nicholls, Keith R. Cruise, Duncan Greig, and Holly Hinz
  5. Race in the Justice System
    Jennifer S. Hunt

II. Criminal Investigations and Jury Trials

  1. Investigative Psychology
    Paul J. Taylor, Brent Snook, Craig Bennell and Louise Porter
  2. Eyewitness Memory
    Nancy K. Steblay
  3. Deception Detection
    Aldert Vrij
  4. Confessions
    Saul M. Kassin, Jennifer T. Perillo, Sara C. Appleby, and Jeff Kukucka
  5. Jury Decision Making
    Margaret Bull Kovera and Lora Levett
  6. Media and the Law
    Jennifer Groscup
  7. Procedural Justice
    Diane Sivasubramaniam and Larry Heuer

III. Sentencing and Incarceration

  1. Probation and Parole
    Jill Viglione and Faye S. Taxman
  2. Sentencing
    R. Barry Ruback
  3. Prison Overcrowding
    Craig Haney
  4. Community Corrections
    Erin Crites, Courtney Porter, and Faye S. Taxman
  5. The Death Penalty
    Craig Haney, Joanna Weill, and Mona Lynch

About the Editors

Environmental Portrait photography of Associate Dean and Professor, Brian CutlerBrian L. Cutler, PhD, earned a doctorate degree in social psychology from the University of Wisconsin–Madison in 1987. He served on the faculties of Florida International University and the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. He currently serves as Professor and Associate Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences & Humanities at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology.


Patricia ZapfPatricia A. Zapf, PhD, obtained her PhD in Clinical Forensic psychology from Simon Fraser University in Canada and currently holds the position of Professor in the Department of Psychology at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, The City University of New York. Dr. Zapf was recently elected to the position of President for the American Psychology-Law Society and she is the Editor of the American Psychology-Law Society book series and Associate Editor of Law and Human Behavior.

Psychopathic Personality Misunderstood by Potential Jury Members

Jury members misunderstand certain aspects of psychopathic personality, appearing to believe that psychopathy is characterized by psychotic symptoms. This is the bottom line of a recently published article in Law and Human Behavior. Below is a summary of the research and findings as well as a translation of this research into practice.

Featured Article | Law and Human Behavior | 2014, Vol. 38, No. 5, 490-500lhb

“So, What Is a Psychopath?” Venireperson Perceptions, Beliefs, and Attitudes About Psychopathic Personality


Shannon Toney Smith, Texas A&M University
John F. Edens, Texas A&M University
John Clark, University of Texas-Tyler
Allison Rulseh, Texas A&M University


This study surveyed over 400 individuals attending jury duty regarding various perceptions, attitudes, and beliefs they had concerning psychopathic personality (psychopathy). The protocol included (a) prototype ratings of what participants considered to be core features, using the Comprehensive Assessment of Psychopathic Personality (CAPP) prototype rating scale; (b) questions concerning knowledge and beliefs about psychopathy (e.g., prevalence in society); and (c) attitudinal scales concerning potential associated features (e.g., criminality, rehabilitation potential), etiological underpinnings, and moral judgments and legal sanctions. Consistent with results of earlier studies using expert raters, jury panel members rated most of the 33 individual CAPP items and all 6 CAPP scales as at least moderately prototypical, with Self and Dominance domains obtaining the highest mean ratings. Many participants also strongly endorsed symptoms of psychosis (e.g., delusions) as prototypical of psychopathy. Despite this, they viewed psychopaths as responsible for their own actions, as capable of determining right from wrong, and as generally not “insane.” Our findings indicate that jury panel members view the prototypical psychopath as highly dominant, self-focused, and lacking in remorse and empathy and reinforce the need for expert witnesses to clearly differentiate between psychopathy and psychotic-spectrum disorders.


psychopathy, jurors, CAPP, legal decision-making, attitudes

Summary of the Research

The current research surveyed 400 individuals who had been summoned for jury duty regarding their beliefs and perceptions of psychopathy using the Comprehensive Assessment of Psychopathic Personality (CAPP).

Existing research regarding public perceptions of psychopathy reveal confusion between psychopathy and psychosis/psychotic disorders. The Psychopathy Checklist Revised (PCL-R) has received widespread support as a means of operationalizing and assessing the features of psychopathy. Earlier research by Edens and colleagues (2013) asked individuals who were summoned for jury duty to read a vignette about a convicted capital murderer, and later rate the extent to which this defendant was psychopathic using PCL-R-like labels and other relevant traits. The results revealed that, “community members associate some nonpathological and even potentially adaptive traits with [psychopathy] that have not been emphasized in the PCL-R model” (p. 491).

The current research study utilized the Comprehensive Assessment of Psychopathic Personality (CAPP), as it “differs from the PCL-R in its more extensive focus on cognitive style and other personality traits argued to be central to psychopathy” (p. 491), thereby encompassing a broader array of characteristics more readily thought of by a wider span of individuals.

Participants in this study were given the opportunity to score CAPP items on a 7-point scale, rating how typical they believed each item to be of psychopathic personality (1 = not typical; 7 = very typical). A set of items were intended to be used as content foils, “that are for the most part inversely related to traits theorists typically have associated with psychopathy” (p. 493). Embedded in this list of items were traits that represented psychotic symptoms, since there is a history of laypersons using psychosis to describe a psychopath. Additional open-ended questions were included to gain a sense of where most individuals get their ideas about psychopaths, who they think of when they hear this term, whether they believe they know a psychopath, and how common this construct is in society.

The five highest rated items, most typical of psychopathy, were Manipulative, Lacks Remorse, Self-Centered, Self-Justifying, and Domineering. A few CAPP items were not viewed as particularly indicative of psychopathy, with mean ratings below four on items such as Lacks Planfulness, Lacks Concentration, and Lacks Perseverance.

“In contrast to the generally high rating of CAPP items, participants rated none of the foil items as highly prototypical, though one (Strange) approached this cutoff. Only one foil (Perfectionistic) was rated as moderately prototypical. Consistent with the relatively high ratings for Strange, however, participants rated the three psychotic spectrum (Delusional Beliefs, Peculiar Behavior, Disturbed Thinking) items as highly prototypical—with Delusional Beliefs actually rated as the third highest item in the entire protocol” (p. 494).

Translating Research into Practice

“Layperson perceptions of psychopathy are an understudied and important area of research because community perceptions and attitudes about mentally disordered offenders in general can impact public policy, and there is both experimental and naturalistic evidence that juror attitudes about whether a defendant is psychopathic influence the outcome of civil and criminal cases” (p. 497).

“Overall, jury panel members tended to view the prototypical psychopath as highly dominant (manipulative, domineering, and deceitful), self-focused (self-centered, entitled, self-justifying, and unique), and lacking in remorse and empathy for others—consistent with many classic models of the core features of psychopathy” (p. 497).

An “important finding [of this research] relates to jury panel members’ high endorsement of psychotic items as prototypically psychopathic. This is generally consistent with previous findings indicating that laypersons might fail to discriminate between psychopathy and psychosis but goes a step further to suggest a more pronounced confusion over specific symptoms (e.g., delusions) rather than simply conflating labels with a root term ‘psycho.’ This suggests a more basic misunderstanding of the disorders at a conceptual level” (p. 497).

“These findings reinforce the necessity for expert witnesses to clearly elucidate during testimony that psychosis and psychopathy are not comparable disorders and that the latter is not associated with being out of touch with reality” (p. 497).

Other Interesting Tidbits for Researchers and Clinicians

“Interestingly, despite participants’ relatively high endorsement of psychotic features as prototypical of psychopathy, they still tended to view psychopaths as responsible for their actions, not insane per se, and not generally in need of hospitalization. This suggests that even if jurors do tend to conflate psychopathy and psychosis, they continue to view these individuals as having a relatively high degree of cognitive or volitional control over their behavior. If anything, [these] results suggest that individuals suffering from genuine psychosis who become involved in the legal system may be unfairly disadvantaged by their disorder being confused with psychopathic traits (e.g., deceitful, self-centered, and remorseless) by the typical juror” (pp. 497-498). It remains crucial for experts to be clear in delineating what psychopathy is and how it might impact and individual’s thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.

Join the Discussion

As always, please join the discussion below if you have thoughts or comments to add!

Special Contributor

ZappalaMarissa - PictureContributions to this post were made by Marissa Zappala.

Marissa is currently enrolled in the Master of Arts in Forensic Psychology program at John Jay College of Criminal Justice located in New York City. She completed her undergraduate work at Penn State University, where she obtained a B.A. Psychology and B.A. Criminology. Her aspirations involve the pursuit of a Clinical Forensic PhD program, and an eventual career in Forensic Psychological Evaluation. To contact Marissa, please e-mail marissa.zappala@gmail.com.

New Release: Forensic Evaluation and Treatment of Juveniles

SalekinThe American Psychological Association has recently released a new book by Randy Salekin that examines relevant issues in the forensic evaluation and treatment of juveniles.

Forensic Evaluation and Treatment of Juveniles: Innovation and Best Practice

Psychologists have always played a key role in determining how the juvenile justice system assesses and treats young offenders. Recent neuropsychological findings shows that there are important developmental differences between juvenile offenders, such as varying levels of maturity, risk potential, and amenability to treatment, not to mention individualized personality traits and possible mental disorders. Psychologists must therefore strive for targeted rehabilitation services to avoid unfair treatment and redirect youth to healthier life choices.

This book is a practical guide that will help psychologists answer important psycho-legal questions to properly assess and treat juvenile offenders. These guidelines primarily focus on disposition evaluations, which describe adolescent offenders and paths to rehabilitation, and transfer evaluations, which determine whether juveniles should be moved to adult courts. Psychological assessments can greatly influence a judge’s decision, so this book will help forensic clinicians consider important external factors, such as local laws and the political climate, and present assessment data to judges in a thorough, understandable manner.

This book will also be valuable for attorneys, judges, criminologists, and legal scholars who want to understand the psychological science behind juvenile assessment. 2015. Hardcover.

About the Author

Randy Salekin, PhD, is a professor and Director of the Disruptive Behavior Clinic (DBC) at the University of Alabama. He also serves as the Associate Director of the Center for the Prevention on Youth Behavior Problems. Dr. Salekin is an expert in the assessment and treatment of young people with disruptive behavior disorders who are referred from the community or the juvenile court. He provides assessment, treatment, and general consultation recommendations. Dr. Salekin is the author of the RSTI, one of the primary measures for assessing youth who have come into contact with the law. His research focuses on understanding of the causes and correlates of disruptive behavior in children including youth with interpersonal callousness (Limited Prosocial Emotion). In addition, his research and practice focus on the treatment of conduct problem young people with callous unemotional traits. Dr. Salekin’s assessment and treatment efforts have been found to be both innovative and effective for youth with Oppositional Defiant Disorders, Conduct Disorders, and Limited Prosocial Emotion. Dr. Salekin is the author of numerous research publications, the Handbook of Child and Adolescent Psychopathy, and has received both national and international recognition for his work.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1. Legal Contexts and More
Chapter 2. Juvenile Characteristics, Political and Social Climate, and Transfer Chapter 3. Forensic Mental Health Concepts
Chapter 4. Empirical Foundations and Limits of Juvenile Forensic Evaluation Chapter 5. Preparation for the Evaluation and Forensic Practice
Chapter 6. Data Collection for Juvenile Evaluations
Chapter 7. Interpretation for Juvenile Evaluations
Chapter 8. Report Writing and Testimony
Chapter 9. Treatment of Young People in the Juvenile Justice System Chapter 10. Conclusion and Future Directions

Changes in Dynamic Factors During Treatment Predicts Postdischarge Recidivism

lhbChangeability of dynamic risk and protective factors during treatment is useful for measuring development in forensic patients related to reduced violent recidivism. This is the bottom line of a recently published article in Law and Human Behavior. Below is a summary of the research and findings as well as a translation of this research into practice.

Featured Article | Law and Human Behavior | 2014, OnlineFirst

Changes in Dynamic Risk and Protective Factors for Violence During Inpatient Forensic Psychiatric Treatment: Predicting Reductions in Postdischarge Community Recidivism


Michiel De Vries Robbé, Van der Hoeven Clinic, Utrecht, the Netherlands
Vivienne de Vogel, Van der Hoeven Clinic, Utrecht, the Netherlands
Kevin S. Douglas, Simon Fraser University and Mid-Sweden University
Henk L. I. Nijman, Radboud University and Altrecht, Den Dolder, the Netherlands


Empirical studies have rarely investigated the association between improvements on dynamic risk and protective factors for violence during forensic psychiatric treatment and reduced recidivism after discharge. The present study aimed to evaluate the effects of treatment progress in risk and protective factors on violent recidivism. For a sample of 108 discharged forensic psychiatric patients pre- and post-treatment assessments of risk (HCR-20) and protective factors (SAPROF) were compared. Changes were related to violent recidivism at different follow-up times after discharge. Improvements on risk and protective factors during treatment showed good predictive validity for abstention from violence for short- (1 year) as well as long-term (11 years) follow-up. This study demonstrates the sensitivity of the HCR-20 and the SAPROF to change and shows improvements on dynamic risk and protective factors are associated with lower violent recidivism long after treatment.


protective factors, risk assessment, treatment progress, violence, desistance

Summary of the Research

“Studies on the dynamic factors of the HCR-20 have shown good predictive validities for violence at short- as well as long-term follow-up and have demonstrated their usefulness for treatment guidance and evaluation of violence risk. However, few studies have investigated the relationship between changes in dynamic risk factors and treatment progress or reductions in violence risk. The present study investigated the usefulness of the joint assessment of the HCR-20 and the SAPROF for measuring changes in dynamic risk and protective factors during treatment. The aim was to evaluate the predictive validity of treatment progress as measured by the tools (i.e., reductions in risk factors and improvements in protective factors) for treatment success. It was hypothesized that dynamic risk factors and protective factors would change over time during treatment and that improvements on risk factors and protective factors would be negatively related to violent recidivism after treatment” (p. xx).

Participants were 108 male patients with a history of either general violent or sexually violent offending. Treatment length averaged 5.65 years and short-term recidivism was defined as any violence committed during a 12-month follow-up period, while long-term recidivism during the maximum average follow-up period of 11 years.

The HCR-20 and SAPROF were coded at the start and end of treatment, and comparisons were made between violent recidivists and those who did not violent reoffend.

Pretreatment risk and protective factors did not significantly differ between future recidivists and nonrecidivists. “However, at discharge future recidivists had higher scores on both dynamic HCR-20 subscales and lower scores on all three SAPROF subscales compared to those participants who turned out to be long-term desisters. These differences were significant for the clinical risk scale and for the internal and motivational protection scale, as well as for the total SAPROF and HCR-SAPROF index posttreatment scores” (p. xx).

“On average patients with final judgments that were rated one risk category higher than other patients (moderate vs. low, or high vs. moderate) were 11 times more likely to recidivate violently within one year after treatment and three times more likely to recidivate in a violent offense in the long run” (p. xx)

Translating Research into Practice

“At the end of treatment, protective factor total scores were significantly greater for the nonrecidivists and dynamic risk factor total scores significantly lower, indicating that the patients who changed the most while in treatment (i.e., those who showed the greatest improvements in risk and protective factors) were the most resilient to violent offending” (p. xx).

Positive changes during treatment appear to reduce recidivism in the short and long term. The likelihood of short term recidivism may be 2 times less likely with a 5 point reduction on the HCR-20 over treatment, and 2 times less likely with a 5 point increase on the SAPROF. Additionally, a 5-point increase over treatment on the SAPROF may indicate over 3 times reduced probability of short term recidivism. “Thus, those who changed the most during treatment still showed significantly lower violent recidivism rates long after treatment had ended… the present findings exemplify that treatment changes can have fairly stable long-term positive effects on abstention from violence.”

“The findings in this study suggest that the HCR-20 dynamic risk factors and the SAPROF protective factors could be useful to measure meaningful change in risk and protection and potentially provide for attainable treatment targets in clinical practice. This implies the HCR-20 and the SAPROF could be useful in guiding effective violence reduction efforts” (p. xx).

Professionals evaluating treatment effectiveness and efficacy may benefit from analyzing the treatment changes measured by the HCR-20 and SAPROF. “This connection between dynamic factor changes and treatment success is promising for the value of dynamic risk assessment tools for evaluating treatment progress, predicting successful treatment outcome and guiding treatment interventions in psychiatric practice. Furthermore, these findings are supportive of the apparent effectiveness of forensic psychiatric treatment in reducing the likelihood of violent reoffending in a high-risk offender population” (p. xx).

Other Interesting Tidbits for Researchers and Clinicians

“The finding that change scores have relatively stable predictive validities across follow-up times suggests that, at least for the current specific subgroup of patients, improvements in risk and protection levels during forensic psychiatric treatment of offenders at high risk of violent recidivism may have long-term effects in making society safer. Due to individual cases of recidivism getting much attention in the media, the general public opinion on the usefulness of treatment of offenders at high risk has become quite skeptical. The positive results on the changeability of risk and protective factors for violent offending observed in the present study may therefore present a valuable finding in support of the potential effectiveness of forensic psychiatric treatment.”

Join the Discussion

As always, please join the discussion below if you have thoughts or comments to add!

Contributing Author

BanfordMegan-picThis post was authored by Megan Banford.

Megan is a graduate student in the Forensic Psychology program at John Jay College. She graduated in 2013 from Simon Fraser University with a B.A. (Honors) and hopes to attain her PhD in clinical forensic psychology. Her main research interests include violence risk assessment and management, juvenile offenders and public policy.

FREE Access to Articles on Children’s Mental Health Now Available

ChildrensMentalHealth_540x185Routledge Journals has made available FREE ACCESS to a collection of articles on Children’s Mental Health. These articles can be viewed and download for FREE until 30th June 2015.

Separate Housing for Adult Court Youth an Unfounded Concern

lhbThe concern regarding separate housing for adult court and juvenile court youth appears unfounded; no differences were found between the two groups in terms of victimization or offending. This is the bottom line of a recently published article in Law and Human Behavior. Below is a summary of the research and findings as well as a translation of this research into practice.

Featured Article | Law and Human Behavior | 2014, Vol. 38, No. 2, 126-138

Tried as an Adult, Housed as a Juvenile: A Tale of Youth From Two Courts Incarcerated Together


Jordan Bechtold University of California, Irvine
Elizabeth Cauffman University of California, Irvine


Research has questioned the wisdom of housing juveniles who are convicted in criminal court in facilities with adult offenders. It is argued that minors transferred to criminal court should not be incarcerated with adults, due to a greater likelihood of developing criminal skills, being victimized, and attempting suicide. Alternatively, it has been suggested that the other option, housing these youth with minors who have committed less serious crimes and who are therefore adjudicated in juvenile courts, might have unintended consequences for juvenile court youth. The present study utilizes a sample of youth incarcerated in one secure juvenile facility, with some offenders processed in juvenile court (n = 261) and others processed in adult court (n = 103). We investigate whether youth transferred to adult court engage in more institutional offending (in particular, violence) and experience less victimization than their juvenile court counterparts. Results indicate that although adult court youth had a greater likelihood of being convicted of violent commitment offenses than juvenile court youth, the former engaged in less offending during incarceration than the latter. In addition, no significant differences in victimization were observed. These findings suggest that the concern about the need for separate housing for adult court youth is unfounded; when incarcerated together, those tried in adult court do not engage in more institutional violence than juvenile court youth.


transfer to adult court, institutional behavior, juvenile court, juvenile offenders

Summary of the Research

Much debate in juvenile justice centers around whether it is most appropriate to house criminal court juvenile offenders with adult offenders or with juvenile offenders. Criminal court (adult court) juvenile offenders are tried as adults because of the seriousness of their crime, not the age at which they committed the crime. On one hand, housing criminal court youth offenders with adult offenders raises safety concerns should these youth experience greater rates of victimization or become more likely to commit suicide. Another concern raised is the influence of other adult offenders in turning youth offenders into mature, sophisticated criminals. On the other hand, housing these individuals with juvenile court youth might increase institutional violence in these juvenile facilities, although there is little empirical evidence that housing adult court and juvenile court offenders together increases violence in juvenile facilities.

The goal of this study was to provide empirical data regarding this concern to assist in determining where adult court youth should serve their time. Violent and nonviolent institutional behavior and victimization experiences in a juvenile facility were examined and compared for juvenile offenders processed in criminal court and those processed in the juvenile court system. Participants were 364 male juvenile offenders between the ages of 14 and 17 years who had committed a crime against another person (e.g., robbery, aggravated assault, attempted murder, sexual assault, and murder). The sample was divided into 261 juvenile court youth and 103 adult court youth and was ethnically diverse and representative of youth incarcerated in Southern California. Each participant completed six interviews over the course of their first two months of incarceration and data were collected regarding prior and institutional offending. In addition, frequency of experienced victimization was assessed with The Exposure to Violence Inventory. Institutional reports of victimization were not obtained, one of the study’s limitations.

Background Variables

No differences were found with respect to age, ethnicity, or proportion of time in the facility. Black youth had a higher chance of being transferred to adult court than White youth; however, when total prior arrests and violent offending were considered, these differences became non-significant… “In fact, White youth had more prior arrests than Black youth”(pp. 131-132).

Commitment offense

“Adult court minors were more likely to have a violent commitment offense than juvenile court youth and more likely to be a first time offender. 96.1% of adult court youth were convicted of a violent offense as their commitment offense compared with only 59.4% of juvenile court youth. The odds of being convicted of a violent offense were 16.9 times higher for adult court youth than juvenile court offenders.” (pp. 132)

Prior offending

According to official records, “youth tried in adult court were more likely to be first time offenders than juvenile court youth.” Self-reports of lifetime violent offending did not reveal any differences between adult court and juvenile court youth.

Do Adult Court Youth Engage in More Institutional Offending Than Youth From Juvenile Court?

“No analysis (nonviolent or violent; facility-report or self-report) indicated that adult court youth exhibit more offending than juvenile court youth. In fact, according to facility reports, juvenile court youth commit more violent and nonviolent offenses than do adult court youth.” (pp. 132)

Do Juvenile Court and Adult Court Youth Experience Similar Amounts of Victimization While Incarcerated Together?

“Results indicated no differences in victimization between juvenile court and adult court youth. Although a few youth were victimized as many as 13 times, on average, youth in the facility reported being victimized about one time (M = 0.63, SD = 1.53) during the first 2 months of incarceration ” (p. 132). There were no differences between juvenile court and adult court youth in victimization experiences during the study period.

Translating Research into Practice

This study found that even though adult court youth offenders were more likely to commit serious offenses, there was “no evidence that these youth engage in more violent or nonviolent institutional offending than youth processed in juvenile court”. It was actually juvenile court youth who “not only engaged in more institutional offending but also had more prior arrests and self-reported a more extensive history of offending than the adult court youth.” The strength of these findings is that they were consistent “across multiple data sources (facility-report and self-report; violent and nonviolent offenses” (pp. 133-135).

The study also found that there was a low likelihood for adult court youth to reoffend. Surprisingly, it was adult court youth who were more likely to be first time offenders than juvenile court offenders. This is in line with previous research indicating first time offenders are less likely to reoffend when compared to chronic offenders.

The study authors found it “especially encouraging” that the data indicate that adult court youth “do not engage in particularly high levels of offending when confined with other juvenile offenders” (pp. 134).

Taken together, the results of this study suggest that the hypothesized negative outcomes of housing adult court youth in a facility with juvenile court youth may warrant reconsideration. Adult court youth did not engage in more violent or nonviolent offending than juvenile court youth and there were no differences between the two groups in terms of victimization experiences. The study authors contrast their results with those from research regarding housing adult court juvenile offenders with other adults in which poorer outcomes (e.g., higher rates of recidivism) are found for juvenile offenders juveniles housed with adult offenders. In addition, juvenile facilities offer developmentally appropriate settings that promote educational objectives.

“Maintaining and encouraging academic goals—especially while incarcerated—is developmentally critical, as research indicates that education is a strong predictor of abstaining and desisting from delinquency and antisocial behavior. Juvenile facilities are, by design, more prepared to handle the educational needs of young offenders than adult facilities.” (pp. 135)

In addition, “Researchers found that when adolescents perceived a high degree of community reentry planning and/or services (e.g., mental health) during secure placement, the adolescent was less likely to recidivate over the subsequent year after release” (p. 135)

In summary, the researchers of the present study suggest that, “decision makers may want to consider the possibility of housing adult court youth in juvenile facilities (ideally on a case-by-case basis)” (p. 135).

Other Interesting Tidbits for Researchers and Clinicians

Future research could focus on comparing adult court youth housed in adult facilities to adult court youth housed in juvenile facilities. The present study only focused on the latter. Analyzing who is victimizing whom could also give researchers a better idea of the conditions in youth facilities.

Join the Discussion

As always, please join the discussion below if you have thoughts or comments to add!

Special Contributor

GaliciaBetsy-pictureContributions to this post were made by Betsy Galicia.

Betsy E. Galicia is a graduate student born and raised in Houston, Texas pursuing her MA in Forensic Psychology at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. She is interested in cultural differences in forensic assessments and cultural competency. She plans to write a thesis on these topics and go on to earn a doctoral degree. Other interests include traveling and exploring the world, going to parks, riding her bike, and re-reading The Giver by Lois Lowry.

How Not to Become Your Worst (Professional) Nightmare: Self Care, Goal Setting, and the Importance of Continued Professional Development (Video)

Patricia ZapfThis September I had the great opportunity to kick off the American Psychology-Law Society (AP-LS; Division 41 of the American Psychological Association) Student Committee’s webinar series. In this series, the Student Committee asks different leaders in the field of psychology and law to present on topics that are of interest and importance to students in the field. As the current President of AP-LS I was thrilled to be asked to kick off this year’s series and decided to speak about an issue near and dear to my heart and my professional vision–the importance of self care, goal setting, and continued professional development.

If you have spent any time with me professionally you know that I have taken on two missions in recent years:

Mission #1

First, to further our efforts in translating the work that we do in this field to the various audiences that can benefit from this work…practitioners, researchers, clinicians, members of the public, policy makers, legal professionals, graduate students, high school students, etc. There are many groups of people who can benefit from having high quality information about issues relevant to the field of psychology and law and so it has become a mission of mine to attempt to improve our efforts at both translating and disseminating the work that we do in this field to those that can use it.

Mission #2

Second, to promote the importance of continued professional development. As graduate students we have our continued professional development activities planned for us and, although we are instilled with the importance of lifelong learning throughout our graduate studies, it takes a concerted effort on our part to actually plan for our own continued professional development after we graduate. Too often professionals attend Continuing Education workshops or lectures simply because most of us are mandated by our licensing boards to complete a requisite number of CE credits each year to maintain our licensure. While some of these CE opportunities are directly in line with our own professional goals, many times they are simply selected because they are convenient, work with our schedule, or offered close to home. It seems to me that a better strategy would be for each of us to take some time each year to reflect on our current knowledge, skill set, and level of expertise and then to plan continued professional development activities that will help us improve any areas of deficit or build areas of strength…with the ultimate goal of moving us closer to our own professional goals.


In this webinar, I get a chance to talk a bit more about how we can work towards our own continued professional development by setting goals, reflecting on our own strengths and weaknesses, and taking care of ourselves. Since giving this webinar I have had emails and calls from students asking how they can further their own professional goals and take care of themselves at the same time…the answer is always the same…reflect on where you are, where you want to go, set goals (both personal & professional; both short-term and longer-term), and then schedule accordingly. Time management is the key to success…if it’s not scheduled on your calendar, it’s not real. When your schedule starts to become overwhelming, look back at your goals and let them guide you towards what you need to say no to and what you should keep on your calendar. Each of us have 24 hours in our day and some of us (think President Obama, Oprah, Bill Gates, or whoever you see as extremely successful) do a lot with that time…the key is time management (saying yes to those things that will further your own goals and politely declining those things that will serve as detours or deterrents to meeting your goals).

Special thanks to Casey LaDuke and Meghann Galloway for organizing the AP-LS Student Committee webinar series!

Call for Submissions | American Psychological Association | Deadline December 1st

Division 41 Call for Papers: APA 2015

August 6 – August 9, 2015 | Toronto, Canada


Doing interesting work in the area of psychology and the law? Consider presenting your results at the 2015 American Psychological Association Convention in Toronto, Canada!

The American Psychology – Law Society invites presentations from any area that involves the intersection between psychology and the law (e.g., practice, teaching, research, policy, law, community outreach). Although all topics and formats will be considered, this year, we especially encourage the following:

  • practice-oriented proposals (e.g., skills development workshops, case studies)
  • translational proposals (e.g., translating research findings into clinical applications and practical or policy implications)

Important change for 2015 submission process: Given the extremely high volume of proposals submitted for the March AP-LS conference (over 600!) and the possibility that you may not be notified of your proposal status prior to the APA Dec. 1 deadline, we invite you submit a condensed version of the same proposal for APA (given APA’s 300-500 word limit). If your proposal is accepted for the March AP-LS conference, then we will automatically withdraw your submission for the August APA convention. In other words, we encourage you to submit the same proposal to both conferences to increase your chances of having your proposal accepted.

We will accept proposals in the following formats: symposia, individual papers, skill-building sessions, conversation hours, and posters.

Proposals must be submitted through the official APA convention website by December 1, 2014 (5pm EST): http://www.apa.org/convention/proposals.aspx.

More information about this convention and proposal format and requirements can be found at: http://www.apa.org/convention/index.aspx.

If you have any questions, please contact one of the chairpersons for the Division 41 program:

Amanda Zelechoski, J.D., Ph.D.
Department of Psychology
Valparaiso University
Dickmeyer Hall
1001 Campus Drive
Valparaiso, IN 46383
P: 219-464-6122
Nicholas Druhn, Psy.D.
Psychological Services – MN Judicial Branch
Government Center
300 South 6th Street
Suite C-509 
Minneapolis, MN 55487
612-227-3770 (cell)


Use of Violence Risk Assessments Tools a Growing Global Phenomenon

ijfmhThe use of psychological assessment instruments for evaluations of risk is a growing phenomenon around the world. This is the bottom line of a recently published article in International Journal of Forensic Mental Health. Below is a summary of the research and findings as well as a translation of this research into practice.

Featured Article | International Journal of Forensic Mental Health | 2014, Vol. 13, No. 3, 193-206

International Perspectives on the Practical Application of Violence Risk Assessment: A Global Survey of 44 Countries


Jay P. Singh, Sarah L. Desmarais, Cristina Hurducas, Karin Arbach-Lucioni, Carolina Condemarin, Kimberlie Dean, Michael Doyle, Jorge O. Folino, Verónica Godoy-Cervera, Martin Grann, Robyn Mei Yee Ho, Matthew M. Large, Louise Hjort Nielsen, Thierry H. Pham, Maria Francisca Rebocho, Kim A. Reeves, Martin Rettenberger, Corine de Ruiter, Katharina Seewald, & Randy K. Otto


Mental health professionals are routinely called upon to assess the risk of violence presented by their patients. Prior surveys of risk assessment methods have been largely circumscribed to individual countries and have not compared the practices of different professional disciplines. Therefore, a Web-based survey was developed to examine methods of violence risk assessment across six continents, and to compare the perceived utility of these methods by psychologists, psychiatrists, and nurses. The survey was translated into nine languages and distributed to members of 59 national and international organizations. Surveys were completed by 2135 respondents from 44 countries. Respondents in all six continents reported using instruments to assess, manage, and monitor violence risk, with over half of risk assessments in the past 12 months conducted using such an instrument. Respondents in Asia and South America reported conducting fewer structured assessments, and psychologists reported using instruments more than psychiatrists or nurses. Feedback regarding outcomes was not common: respondents who conducted structured risk assessments reported receiving feedback on accuracy in under 40% of cases, and those who used instruments to develop management plans reported feedback on whether plans were implemented in under 50% of cases. When information on the latter was obtained, risk management plans were not implemented in over a third of cases. Results suggest that violence risk assessment is a global phenomenon, as is the use of instruments to assist in this task. Improved feedback following risk assessments and the development of risk management plans could improve the efficacy of health services.


Violence, risk assessment, survey, international, mental health

Summary of the Research

A total of 2135 mental health professionals around the world were surveyed with respect to their risk assessment practices. The majority of the respondents were women (60.3%) and the average age of respondents was 43.9 years (SD = 11.0), with an average of 15.9 years (SD = 10.7) spent in practice. “Approximately half of their time in the past 12 months was spent on clinical activities, most often in forensic psychiatric hospitals followed by private practice and correctional institutions. Additional professional responsibilities over the past 12 months included administrative duties and teaching, with comparatively less time spent on research activities” (p. 198). Mental health professionals were contacted through web-based surveying, in a variety of languages, to examine the similarities and differences in risk assessment practices. The majority of participants were psychologists given that one of the inclusion criteria was that participants have previous training and practice in assessment.

Assessment Instruments Being Used

Two primary approaches to risk assessment have been identified: the actuarial approach, which combines protective and risk factors for violence in a mechanical, statistically-based way within a particular population of interest, and the structured professional judgment (SJP) approach, which provides an evidence-based structure within which the evaluator may use clinical discretion. The three most commonly used instruments for violence risk assessments identified in this study were the Historical, Clinical, Risk Management-20 (HCR-20), the Psychopathy Checklist-Revised (PCL-R), and the Psychopathy Checklist: Screening Version (PCL:SV) over both a lifelong and twelve-month time period. More than any other instrument, the HCR-20 was used to conduct, develop, and monitor risk for violence assessments and risk management plans. Personality instruments, such as the PCL-R, do not accurately predict violence as well as tools specifically designed for violence risk assessment but may still be helpful in the overall evaluation of an individual;’s risk for violence. In Europe, the HKT-30 (an instrument that is based on the HCR-20 but adds an additional 10 factors to consider) and the FOTRES were used almost exclusively.

Overall, both actuarial methods and SJP approaches had success and popularity among professionals. This research underscores that the decision regarding which of the two approaches to use should be based on the particular characteristics of the individual being evaluated as well asthe specific environment in which the professional works. Participants using SJP methods rated them as very helpful for their assessments. SJP tools like the HCR-20 or the HKT-30 appear to be more useful in international settings as actuarial approaches are impacted more by local factors than are SJP instruments, causing greater variability in probabilities of violence risk.

Implementation of Assessment Tools

“In terms of professional discipline, psychologists reported using instruments to structure their violence risk assessments more often than did psychiatrists or nurses both over their lifetime and in the past 12 months. Nurses reported more often obtaining feedback on whether their risk management plans had been implemented and that their risk management plans were implemented more often than psychologists or psychiatrists. Finally, psychologists reported taking significantly longer to conduct both unstructured violence risk assessments and structured violence risk assessments” (p. 199)

These authors “found that respondents who used instruments to develop management plans frequently did not know whether their plans had been implemented (44.6%) and, amongst those who did, proposed plans were not implemented in over a third of cases (34.6%)” (p. 202-203). Execution of risk assessment and management plans is necessary to manage risks.

Global Trends and Practices in Risk Assessment

“Compared to North America, Europe, and Australasia, respondents in Asia and South America reported completing a smaller proportion of risk assessments with the aid of an instrument” (p. 199). This highlights the differences in professional practices and differences across different countries. In addition, the lack of representation of these countries in the development of risk assessment research and practice may contribute to the slower adoption of these clinical practices in these countries. Other cultural restrictions included unauthorized translation of foreign materials or lack of awareness for instruments that are commercially available.

As the need for quality violence risk assessment grows on a global scale, it will be important to identify appropriate tools for risk assessments in South America and Asia.

Translating Research into Practice

This survey has two primary implications for practice: (1) we need to Improve communication regarding the quality and follow up of violence risk assessment and management plans, and (2) we need more information regarding how cultural factors impact the usage and quality of violence risk assessments throughout different countries.

Risk assessments provide a primary means of communication for mental health professionals. As such, there must be a continuum of channels for communication to ensure the clinical assessment is used to its fullest potential. If a mental health professional is required to perform assessments with no direct follow up or no follow through, then assessments lose their utility. Only one-third of participants reported receiving feedback on the accuracy of their assessments. “Social psychology research demonstrates that judgment accuracy increases when decision-makers receive feedback about their performance” (p. 202). It is important to receive feedback on the accuracy of assessments to determine whether additional training, education, or experience is needed. On the other hand, identifying professionals with strong assessment skills could help train other professionals to improve their skills. The main goal is to strengthen assessment skills and become experienced using these tools which will help improve the predictive validity of risk assessments.

“Moving forward, clinical training programs in these areas may wish to incorporate modules on violence risk assessment tools, funding agencies may wish to issue grants to encourage the development of novel instruments in native languages or the authorized translations of available tools, and there needs to be increased discussion in the field about the strengths and limitations of the contemporary literature and best-practice recommendations in international settings” (p. 203). Cultural differences across countries can be controlled to an extent as more collective research is transformed into international, unified models of clinical practice.

Other Interesting Tidbits for Researchers and Clinicians

Participants in this survey reported an average of 435.5 violence risk assessments in their lifetime with the use of a structured instrument for over half of those assessments. On average, about 35 violence risk assessments were performed within a twelve-month time frame. The time to conduct a structured assessment took an average of 7.8 hours while an unstructured assessment took an average of 2.8 hours. This 5-hours difference is significant but structured assessments offer more valid and reliable conclusions.

Younger participants and participants who had shorter careers were more likely to use structured violence risk assessments than older participants or participants with longer careers. This could be evidence towards a shifting philosophy in clinical practice that strives for the use of Structured Professional Judgment approaches.

Join the Discussion

As always, please join the discussion below if you have thoughts or comments to add!

Special Contributor

PatrickAndreaContributions to this post were made by Andrea Patrick.

Andrea Patrick is a first year masters student studying Forensic Psychology at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. In the future, she hopes to be directly working with forensic populations providing risk assessments and clinical evaluations.