The criminal justice system is dependent upon professionals from all sorts of backgrounds and specialties working together to make society safer. One of those specialties is forensic psychology. Forensic psychology is a broad term that simply refers to the intersection of the legal system and psychology. If this field interests you, consider enrolling in a graduate studies program to set a solid foundation for your future career.
Working Across Multiple Settings
Forensic psychologists work in lots of different settings. They can be found in rehabilitation centers, schools, police departments, private practice and government agencies. Forensic psychologists also work directly in prisons, jails and juvenile detention centers with offender populations. In this capacity, they can be called to a jail to advise law enforcement officials about the mental state of arrested suspects and charged defendants.
Working One-on-One with Prison Populations
Within a prison population, forensic psychologists can conduct in-depth mental health assessments, particularly of inmates who might be at risk of suicide. These professionals may develop and implement mental health programs within the prison environment and they can directly deliver behavioral health therapies to inmates.
Forensic psychologists can also be called upon to assess the likelihood of repeat criminal offenses among inmates who are up for parole. Because forensic psychologists must frequently work with offenders who have committed violent crimes, it’s essential that candidates for this type of work be comfortable interacting with a wide variety of people.
Serving as an Expert Witness During Trials
It’s often necessary for criminal justice professionals to testify during trials and forensic psychologists are no exception. During any given day, these specialists may be hard at work writing court reports and briefings, consulting with the prosecution team and testifying under oath as expert witnesses. A successful courtroom appearance requires excellent verbal communication skills, a sharp memory and the ability to handle tough questions without getting flustered. Some forensic psychologists, especially those in private practice, provide services for the defense team. They can give defense attorneys insight into the mental state of the accused and may serve as expert witnesses during the trial.
Assessing, Training, and Advising Criminal Justice Professionals
Law enforcement professionals are subject to an incredibly high level of mental stress each day, particularly those who work in urban areas with high crime rates. It can sometimes be necessary for a forensic psychologist to assess the mental state of a police officer, such as an officer who has recently been involved in a shooting. In this capacity, the forensic psychologist assesses whether the officer is fit for duty.
Additionally, forensic psychologists can train law enforcement officers to better prepare them for interactions with citizens who may be emotionally disturbed. Forensic psychologists can also play a role in developing police department policies.
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