Forensic Psychology and the Prison Service Essay
Forensic Psychology and the Prison Service
The two programmes mentioned above have similar objectives and use comparable methods. The curriculum includes teaching problem-solving skills, perspective taking and social skills, creative thinking, moral reasoning, management of emotions, and critical reasoning’ (Blud et al, 2003). To pass through the first stage of selection for a cognitive skills programme in HM Prison Service, offenders should either have a current or previous conviction for a sexual, violent or drug-related offence, or they should demonstrate a life-style factor such as serious drug abuse or poor family relationships which indicate they may benefit from the programme.
One study conducted by the Canadian Correctional Service showed that there were modest outcome effects at best, with 47% of the sample being readmitted to prison. Critics of this treatment suggest that focusing on developing compensatory strategies to repair ‘deficits’ in thinking does not allow sufficient account to be taken of the predisposition, choices, opportunities and motivations of the individual, and that it would be more useful to design interventions which focus on providing opportunities to change and develop.
There are alternatives to cognitive therapy within the prison system. One of these is the therapeutic institutional regime, which has the aim of ‘providing offenders with an institutional environment that will encourage their development as members of an effective community, which may then lead to more effective participation in their community on release’ (Howitt, 2006, p. 366). The effective treatment of sex offenders originated in the behavioural therapies common in the 1960s. The treatment of sex offenders was not a priority in prison services until the last few years.
Sex offenders typically have both sexual and nonsexual problems (Blackburn, 1995), so assessment needs to cover social, cognitive, affective, and physiological levels of functioning. Treatment for sexual offenders differentiates between types of offence, such as child molestation, exhibitionism, rape, and sexual assault (Hollin, 1989). Behavioural therapists consider assessment of sexual arousal patterns to be necessary. Changing deviant sexual preference is a major target of cognitive-behavioural programmes.
There are a number of ways of doing this, such as covert sensitisation, shame aversion therapy, masturbatory or orgasmic reconditioning and shaping and fading (Blackburn, 1995). However, there are a number of questions over their use. For example, the assumption that deviant preference predicts re-offending remains largely untested. There are also attempts to improve social competence. Cognitive distortions are targeted in this approach. These distortions include beliefs about sex roles, rape myths, the acceptability of child-adult sex, and the minimization of harmful effects of sexual assault.
According to Blackburn (1995), offenders who commit serious crimes against the person are likely to display multiple psychological dysfunctions. Blackburn states that there are four types of murderer: paranoid-aggressive; depressive; psychopathic; and over-controlled repressors (of aggression). In one study, using the MMPI (Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory), Biro et al (1992) found that 49% of homicide convicts were in the hypersensitive-aggressive category.
This category consists of people with the characteristic of ‘being easily offended, prone to impulsive aggressive outbursts and intolerant of frustration. They are very rigid, uncooperative and permanently dissatisfied thing things. However, the causes of antisocial behaviour in psychotic offenders are often the same as those in the non-disordered. Psychological treatment for dangerous offenders is most frequently carried out in forensic psychiatric facilities.
While pharmacological treatment is frequently the best strategy for treating acute psychotic disorders, psychological interventions are a more durable alternative for emotional problems such as depression or anxiety, and are critical in rehabilitation. There are few demonstrably effective treatment or intervention programmes for adult violent offenders in maximum-security prisons, particularly for those diagnosable as psychopaths. They have very high recidivism rates and are often involved in institutional violent behaviour (Belfrage at al, ).
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