PSY100H1 Lecture Notes - Forensic Psychology, Eyewitness Testimony, Miranda Warning

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PSYC39 Lecture 1: PY
Course will cover: 3-4 questions from today’s lec = very basic ideas
Forensic psychology:
o Concerned with the intersection between psych & law
o The role that forensic psychologists will play in the criminal justice sys = what course will look at
There’s a whole area of social psych and law that we won’t focus on:
o Eye-witness testimony
o Social psychology perceptual experiments to see how accurate eye witnesses are
o There’s a lot of research going on with psych and law but has nothing to do with criminals or criminal
justice per se but it’s more based on witnesses and whether warnings/cautions given to ppl Miranda
warning (US thing)
o This is more social & perceptual parts
Here, we’re focusing on the role of psychologist in court system and correctional sys
o Licensing body for psychologists in Ont: College of Psychologists of Ont doesn’t really distinguish
between ppl designated to work in prisons or psychologists designated to do court-based assessments
although they are completely diff
o Summarize difference:
If you work in the court sys, you’re helping judge/jury/both to decide whether an individual is
for ex: fit to stand trial (b/c ppl may have mental disorders may impair ability to aid in their
defense unfit to stand trial usu happens w/ some psychotic/psychiatric illness)
Usu regain fitness after few weeks of treatment w/ anti-psychotics
Another major component of what forensic psychologists do for the court is do assessments of
criminal responsibility
Fitness assessment: refers to ppl’s cognitive abilities in the present (do they have enough
wherewithal to participate meaningfully in their trial?)
Criminal responsibility: doesn’t refer to how they’re functioning today but rather how they were
functioning at the time crime was committed
Ex) pseudoseizures man was suffering from this killed 16 yr old girl neighbour seemed
oblivious to it he had no recollection of it
for years, said that there was nothing neurologically wrong with him but when stressed, he may
have altered states, gets snells/tingling but nothing neuro wrong so didn’t think he had mental
health defense
but when MRIs avail, found that he had tumor in temporal lobe; after tumor removed, his beh
became completely normal & didn’t have pseudoseizures
at the time of offense, he had some neurological problem that could’ve caused unusual beh and
lack of memory for event; but when going to trial, now completely fit b/c tumor removed and fxning
there’s a disjunction between fitness to stand trial and criminal responsibility (not necessarily
consistent b/c person could be treated using anti-psychotics so that they would be fit to stand trial
BUT at the time of crime occurrence they were not at normal state) retrospective to determine
criminal responsibility
-sometimes ppl malinger how do psychologists tell whether someone is faking a mental illness
etc; for personal gain this is screened for
Another thing that is done by forensic psychologists for the court is risk assessments
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PSYC39 Lecture 1: PY
Risk Assessments:
o In the old age, asking the question whether someone is likely to commit a violent crime again, the
opinion given to court is by a psychiatrist interviewed person, looked at files; problem: became clear
in the 60s when US released 1000s of mentally disordered ppl who were largely held b/c psychiatrists
said they were dangerous first anti-psychotic came onto scene, and felt that these ppl didn’t need to
be hospitalized forever; what they found was that very small % (less than 15%) never committed a crime
again when followed up in future year
What this means is that 1000s of mentally disordered ppl were kept in institutions b/c
psychiatrist said they were dangerous and needed to be locked up this isn’t true and this is
what spawned the industry of risk assessment research
o Stage of the trial where risk assessment comes in is post-verdict
Pre-trial we have issue of fitness to stand trial
During trial we have issue of criminal responsibility
Post-verdict: psychologist can determine how likely the offender is to recidivate violently which
will help to determine how long this person should be locked up
This is all forensic psychology having to do with the court
Correctional psychology comes in once the person has been sentenced
When sentenced, go to either federal or provincial prison; or if minor offense and the individual is deemed to
need psychiatric/social work support (ex: homeless person with mental disorder steals hotdog off cart don’t
wanna send them to penitentiary…not necessarily going to make society safer; probably need psych help, help
with housing/finances) these aren’t really ppl with criminal personalities
o Correctional psychology don’t do fitness or criminal responsibility aspect; these psychologists do
classification (when somebody is convicted, the judge has to decide how long person should be
o 2 yrs less a day
Under CDN law, the federal penitentiary sys is responsible to take in all offenders who are
serving sentences of 2 yrs to life
Provincial sys are responsible for sentences of less than 2 yrs
Starting off in criminal career (generally not psychopaths), these are people who were in
situations where they didn’t exercise proper judgement (bar fight, sell weed etc;)
In our criminal justice sys, we’re trying to rehabilitate criminals and not punish them for the sake
of punishing (altho there’s an element of punishment)
in terms of sentencing, we want to make sure we deter the individual from doing it again
(specific deterrence) and you also want to deter other ppl in society from doing the same thing
(general deterrence)
this is one of the goals of sentencing
Canada has most progressive criminal justice sys in the world and the focus is on rehabilitation;
don’t wanna create apartments of criminals, we’d much rather invest some money and
rehabilitate/re-educate/inoculate ppl from committing crimes over and over
Effectiveness of CDN system:
In US, 2 million + ppl incarcerated & 2 million on probation = 4 mil
CDN federal prisons (2yrs-life):
o Canada = 10% of US pop’n
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PSYC39 Lecture 1: PY
o Canada = 14,000 ppl incarcerated in fed sys; 3X as many in provincial sys (lesser
One of the things that psychologists do in the correctional systems is also risk assessment (this is for a slightly
diff purpose = not for sentencing) = do risk assessment in Canada when ppl have served 1/3 of their sentence,
they’re eligible for parole
o Just b/c eligible for parole doesn’t mean you get parole
o Very thorough assessments done; risk assessments that are done later on, when person becomes
eligible for parole
Correctional Service Canada has come up with very elaborate protocol that they use to determine what ppl’s risk
levels are and whether they recommend whether they do/don’t get parole b/c if releasing them before the end
of sentence is going to result in increased risk to society, then they don’t want to release them early
o Unless they get an indeterminate sentence (means there’s no end to it), even if ppl get life sentence
(here, means 25 yrs) then under the legislation of Faint Hope clause, allows them to apply for early
o This helps manage beh in prisons; b/c lot of ppl with very long sentences were very hard to manage in
prison b/c there’s no consequence for bad beh; so what they did was give them offer that if they’re
really good for 1st 15 yrs(etc), maybe can get out even 10 yrs earlier on life sentence
o Fairly effective in reducing violence in prison sentence
o Indeterminate sentence aka dangerous offender legislation not quite the way legislators wrote the law
but also involves risk assessment to a large degree
And if ppl are designated as dangerous offender, means they’re given sentence that has no time
limit on it which can mean they can be in jail for rest of life, not limited to 25 yrs (as lifetime
sentence is)
If someone kills someone, then the crown cannot raise the dangerous offender issue b/c they
are designated as serving a life sentence; when the law was written, they didn’t tack on
dangerous offender possibility that’s indeterminate sentence
So if somebody’s only crime is murder and unless they tell ppl at the end of their 25 yrs ‘yes, I
killed my wife and now I’m planning on killing my bro-in-law when I get out’; in which case, they
can keep a person in
Unless someone is this foolish, they will be out in 25 yrs or less (if good beh)
But under dangerous offender legislation, they get a review every 2 yrs and if their risk level has
not been deemed reduced to the point that the review board believes that they can be safely
returned to community, then they’re kept in
For a lot of the sadistic psychopaths, they’ve been deemed dangerous offenders and they never
get out (held in max security prisons); to protect society b/c it’s only a matter of time b4 they
kill/torture someone if they get out
Other thing that correctional psychologists do a lot of is interventions to reduce risks of violence and other
forms of criminal recidivism = make prisoners risk levels lower
Forensic Mental Health System:
What happens if somebody is deemed to be unfit to stand trial with no reasonable expectation that they will
have their fitness restored?
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