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Where the home in valley meets the damp dirty prison : a human rights perspective on therapeutic jurisprudence and the rule of forensic psychologists in correctional settings
journal contributionposted on 2009-01-01, 00:00 authored by Astrid BirgdenAstrid Birgden, M Perlin
The roles of forensic psychologists in coerced environments such as corrections include that of treatment provider (for the offender) and that of organizational consultant (for the community). This dual role raises ethical issues between offender rights and community rights; an imbalance results in the violation of human rights. A timely reminder of a slippery ethical slope that can arise is the failure of the American Psychological Association to manage this balance regarding interrogation and torture of detainees under the Bush administration. To establish a “bright-line position” regarding ethical practice, forensic psychologists need to be cognizant of international human rights law. In this endeavor, international covenants and a universal ethical code ought to guide practice, although seemingly unresolveable conflicts between the law and ethics codes may arise. A solution to this problem is to devise an ethical framework that is based on enforceable universally shared human values regarding dignity and rights. To this end, the legal theory of therapeutic jurisprudence can assist psychologists to understand the law, the legal system, and their role in applying the law therapeutically to support offender dignity, freedom, and well-being. In this way, a moral stance is taken and the forensic role of treatment provider and/or organizational consultant is not expected to trump the prescriptions and the proscriptions of the law.