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Evaluation of Psychology Reports in the NSW Department of Juvenile Justice Program: An Analysis of Their Effectiveness

NCJ Number
Youth Studies Australia Volume: 20 Issue: 2 Dated: June 2001 Pages: 35-39
C. J. Lennings; John Stephenson; Michael Cotter; Ingrid Johnston; Tony Jenkins
Date Published
June 2001
5 pages
This article addresses the effectiveness of psychology reports in the juvenile justice system in Australia.
One area of increasing importance in the juvenile justice system is the pretrial or presentence screening of offenders undertaken by forensic psychologists. Such pre-screening should make a difference to the disposition of the child, and should pick up any underlying mental health needs. However, the psychological report has been criticized for being both inappropriate in content and style for the intended reader and for failing to make a substantial contribution to treatment planning for the offender. This study sought to assess the effects of psychological reports on sentencing outcomes. The data was derived from the first 100 reports prepared by the psychologists employed in the forensic program of the New South Wales Department of Juvenile Justice. Members of the research team examined the reports for specific or general recommendations in the psychologist’s report, recommendations and sentencing dispositions made by the magistrate, and welfare requirements outlined by the magistrate with the disposition. Results showed that while magistrates on the whole reported strong support for psychological reports as an aid to sentencing, the use of such reports appeared to be less in terms of suggesting recommendations but much more in fine tuning the understanding of the young offender. Magistrates were more likely to take up recommendations relating to custodial or noncustodial dispositions than welfare needs. Results showed that magistrates did not endorse specific treatment recommendations but, when interviewed, they made it quite clear they valued such recommendations. 2 tables, 6 references, 2 footnotes