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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


Astrid Birgden


Deakin University

Michael L. Perlin


New York Law School


Aggression & Violent Behavior, Vol. 14, 2009
NYLS Legal Studies Research Paper No. 08/09 #30

Abstract:     
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 in the balance between offender 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 ethics codes and the law may arise. 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 ethical principle “do no harm” with the ethical principle “community protection”.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 30

Keywords: Forensic psychology, human rights, therapeutic jurisprudence, international human rights law, ethics.

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Date posted: May 19, 2009  

Suggested Citation

Birgden, Astrid and Perlin, Michael L., '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. Aggression & Violent Behavior, Vol. 14, 2009; NYLS Legal Studies Research Paper No. 08/09 #30. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1406522

Contact Information

Astrid Birgden
Deakin University ( email )
Geelong, Victoria
Australia
Michael L. Perlin (Contact Author)
New York Law School ( email )
185 West Broadway
New York, NY 10013
United States
212-431-2183 (Phone)
HOME PAGE: http://www.nyls.edu/bios/perlin.html
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