Role of forensic psychologists in the criminal justice process
Forensic psychology may be defined as the application of psychology to the system of criminal justice. Forensic psychologists search deeply and laboriously into the vast perspectives of psychology and apply them to the system of criminal justice. These issues weave together the topics of law and psychology; they are also essential to the forensic psychology discipline. The knowledge of forensic psychology is used in different forms. These forms include treatment of mentally ill offenders, analysis of the behavior and intent of the offender, and their practice within the civil arena (Study House, 171).
Prediction has it that there will be a continued growth in research work, clinical practice, and consultation over the coming years (Study House, 2010); this is because of the role played by a forensic psychologist in these fields. A forensic psychologist may opt to focus their career on research. The research may range from the testimony of an eyewitness to the development of correctional programs. They may also focus on practical work, like working with the courts of law or working with the offenders to reduce the risk of re-offending (Study House, 2010).
In the United Kingdom, forensic psychologists have four main roles. First and foremost, they perform clinical assessments; this involves a personal interaction with the people related to criminal cases. It helps in making formal assessments; they use objective psychometric measurements, questionnaires, subjective scales and other sources (Genis, 22). Subsequently, they have an experimental role; this ensures the acquisition of relevant facts to help a jury. Thirdly, they have an actuarial role in presenting evidence on the probability of criminal events (Genis, 23). The last role is an advisory one; they analyze evidence provided to them by investigators and detectives then present comprehensible facts.
Forensic psychologists play a role of expert witness. They are often called upon for court hearings to provide reports on individuals. The client evaluation by the forensic psychologist often involves consideration of the relationship between relevant legal issues and psychological factors. Forensic psychologists are expected to defend their conclusions in a logical manner. They should use explanations that can be understood by non-psychologists, including barristers, the judge, and members of the jury. Recommendations made by forensic psychologists should be legally sound and practical. Hence, it is critical for the forensic psychologist to possess excellent communication and assessment skills.
Criminal profiling is defined as the process by which the available information concerning a crime or a crime scene is used in the composition of a psychological portrait of an unknown crime perpetrator. According to Muller (235), it is the use of available information about a crime scene and crime in developing a psychological trait of the perpetrator. It can be both geographical and typological; this helps in connecting the offender with his offences. Geographical profiling focuses on the distribution of various crimes. It focuses on the quantitative, empirical and statistical methods; this is common in the United Kingdom (Sammons, 1). Typological profiling, on the other hand, focuses on behavioral evidence at crime scenes. The information used by the criminal profiler is mainly taken from the crime scene. It takes into account such factors as the kinds of weapons used in a crime, the state of the crime, and the actions and words said to the victim.
It occurs in a four stage process. The data assimilation stage involves the gathering of information from sources such as; police reports, crime scene photos and pathologists’ reports. Crime scene classification occurs when the profilers decide whether scene shows an organized or disorganized offender. Thirdly, crime reconstruction involves the generation of hypotheses on what occurred during the crime. The last stage is profile generation; profilers create a sketch of the offender showing physical, demographical and behavioral habits (Sammons, 2).
Psychological profiling should provide psychological and social assessment of the offender, psychological evaluation the possessions found with the suspects and consultation with the officials of law enforcement on strategies to be used when the offenders are interviewed. However, not all crimes are profiled. Crime profiling is appropriate only in cases where the crime is particularly ritualistic or violent. It is also suitable when the psychopathology signs are evident with the offender. Arson and rape are also good candidates for profiling.