Forensic Psychology and the Prison Service - Sample Essay
Large numbers of offenders who are not extremely dangerous are still perceived to have difficulties in dealing with anger, aggression and hostility. These offenders are often placed in anger management programs to reduce the frequency and intensity of anger reactions. These involve cognitive restructuring and coping skills training. The client is made aware of the relation between anger and self-statements through the use of diaries, and learns how to discriminate between justified and unjustified anger.
Relaxation training is also given as a further self-control skill, and skills of communication and assertion are taught using modelling and role-play (Blackburn, 1995). However, some studies indicate that while anger management programs reduce aggression in the short-term, its effect on violent criminals and its longer-term impact on aggressive offending are inconclusive. Risk assessment within the legal system is a major issue. Traditionally, recidivism has been the crucial topic, particularly with regards to violent offenders.
There is an important distinction between predictors and causes of dangerousness and risk. Predictors can comprise of simple things such as age, criminal history, or social background. Causes of crime are multiple and complexly interrelated. The HCR-20 violence risk assessment scheme has attracted a great deal of attention. One study examined whether institutional violence could be prevented through comprehensive risk assessments followed by adequate risk management. They concluded that while there was no significant reduction in the risk factors for violence, the number of violent incidents showed a marked decrease.
However, no matter how useful risk assessment is within the prison system, its major downfall is that there is no evidence that it is possible to predict serious criminal violence by individuals who have not already committed a violent crime. There appears to be no broad-spectrum, systematic, longitudinal program of study designed to answers the questions regarding the mental state of prisoners during their confinement. The affective, behavioural, and cognitive impact of imprisonment must be examined. Consequently, little can be concluded about the contribution of imprisonment to a prisoner.
Within the prison service, cognitive behavioural treatments seem to have a positive effect on both sex offenders and violent offenders. According to Redondo (2002), criminology has demonstrated that punishment may not be effective on all offenders. There are many factors that contribute to crime, including social factors and individual psychological factors. Punishment is unlikely to have much of an influence on such factors. However, there is every reason to believe that prison, so long as appropriate services are provided, can have a limited but significant impact on crime.