PSY 494/PSY 598: Correctional Psychology
This course provides an introduction to correctional psychology – the development and application of psychological science from any subdiscipline of psychology (e.g., social, cognitive, clinical, counseling, developmental) and/or the application of professional psychological practice (e.g., clinical counseling) to people involved in the justice system to inform the classification, treatment, and management of offenders to reduce risk and improve public safety. (Ax, Fagan, Magaletta, Morgan, Nussbaum, & White, 2007; J. Skeem, personal communication, June 10, 2016; Magaletta, Butterfield, & Patry, in press; Magaletta, Patry, Dietz, & Ax, 2007; Neal, under review; Wormith, Althouse, Simpson, Reitzel, Fagan, & Morgan, 2007). The prison population in the U.S. has been growing at an explosive rate over the past few decades, corresponding with the deinstitutionalization movement from state hospitals. The U.S. incarcerates more people– including people with mental illness – with a much higher incarceration rate per capita than any other country in the world. Correctional facilities have become the largest provider of mental health services in the country, with the Los Angeles County Jail now serving as the country’s largest psychiatric treatment facility. Correctional psychologists are involved typically post-adjudication (such as conducting research on the etiology of criminal behavior or the psychological effects of prison or probation conditions; treating prison inmates; providing assessment services to inform treatment, classification, or release decision-making). In this course, we learn about the challenges and need for behavioral science research in correctional settings, the economics and psychology of incarceration in U.S. correctional facilities, intended and unintended consequences of public policies to reduce crime, and the clinical psychological science of offender assessment, classification, risk reduction, and reentry. To learn the substance of these issues, we read and discuss landmark legal cases, discover real cases and articles in which these issues were raised, critique these issues from both legal and scientific perspectives, and share what we learn with others.
- Demonstrate independent, articulate, creative thinking about the challenges associated with the criminal justice system’s use of science generally, and psychology in particular, to reduce offender risk and prevent crime.
- Describe the unique challenges of conducting research in correctional settings.
- Identify and discuss landmark cases that demonstrate the practical role of correctional psychology (such as prisoners’ rights to mental health treatment in Bowring v. Gamble).
- Analyze how social and public policy contexts influence justice practices.
- Present an organized, clear, fluid presentation on a selected correctional psychology topic.