Forensic psychologists perform risk assessments utilizing self-reports, structured and unstructured tools to evaluate inappropriate sexual behaviors, risk of violence and criminal recidivism (AAPL, 2015). Findings and reports from an assessment with an adult may reach beyond the local community but with minors convicted of capital punishment, results of an assessment affect both the minor and the community. These findings and subsequent recommendation to the legal professionals have the potential of risk. Risks specific to the youth include the potential for physical, sexual, psychological and emotional harm. Additionally, youth might have a lengthy prison sentence in an adult facility where he is exposed to a lifetime of subjection to these traumas or learn to become a better offender.
The professional has an obligation to the community to provide accurate reports and findings of an assessment. This is especially true if the reported findings are not weighed heavily in a sentence decision of a youth of a violent, sexual or property crime and he is becomes eligible for parole in what might seem as too soon. In cases of paraphilia, escalation if a factor to consider during the sentencing phase as well.
Capital punishment and the death penalty for cases involving juveniles are plagued with procedural problems because of one primary factor, competency (APA, 2003). It has been widely reported that the human brain is not fully developed until around the age of 25. Sentencing a minor of death might have additional implications with regard to the mental capacity of the minor. In cases such as these, the forensic psychologist would assess for a youth to be deemed mental fit to stand trial with a tool(s) specifically designed for minors in addition to a tool(s) measuring psychopathy, propensity of violence, history of violence, sexual deviance and so on. The additional testing is to measure beyond the level of mental capacity and considered implications of the community, victims and potential harm to society.
AAPL, (2015). Practice guideline for the forensic assessment. Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law, 43(2), s3-s53.
American Psychological Association. (2003). Ethical principles of psychologists and code of conduct. Retrieved from http://www.apa.org/ethics/code/index.aspx
American Psychological Association. (2016c). Specialty Guidelines for Forensic Psychology. Retrieved from https://www.apa.org/practice/guidelines/forensic-psychology
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