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Where the Home in the Valley Meets the Damp Dirty Prison: A Human Rights Perspective on Therapeutic Jurisprudence and the Role of Forensic Psychologists in Correctional Settings

NCJ Number
Aggression and Violent Behavior Volume: 14 Issue: 4 Dated: July/August 2009 Pages: 256-263
Astrid Birgden; Michael L. Perlin
Date Published
July 2009
8 pages
This paper offers guidance for approaching a balance between offender rights and community rights in the roles of forensic psychologists, who act not only as treatment providers but as organizational consultants on behalf of community safety.
The first section of the paper provides an overview of international human rights laws as applied to corrections. It warns that serious ethical problems may arise if such laws are violated. An example is provided of the role of psychologists in the torture and interrogation of military detainees in the United States. The authors argue that the American Psychological Association weighted the balance toward community rights (as organizational consultant) and against detainee rights (as treatment provider), thus disregarding international law. The paper's second section describes universal ethical principles that ought to assist forensic psychologists in corrections in order to balance offender rights and community rights. If ethics codes were to be underpinned by enforceable universally shared human values regarding dignity and rights, such conflicts would be less likely to arise. The authors propose therapeutic jurisprudence (TJ) as a new model by which the ultimate impact of the law on offenders can be assessed. TJ requires that rules, procedures, and roles be reshaped so as to enhance their therapeutic potential without subordinating due process legal principles. The third section of the paper proposes that TJ be used to clarify the role of forensic psychologists by promoting the therapeutic effects of the law through the promotion of offenders' human rights. 38 references