Subscribe: Psychology, Public Policy, and Law - Vol 15, Iss 4
Preview: Psychology, Public Policy, and Law - Vol 15, Iss 4

Psychology, Public Policy, and Law - Vol 22, Iss 3

Psychology, Public Policy, and Law focuses on the links between psychology as a science and public policy and law.

Last Build Date: Tue, 25 Oct 2016 06:00:10 EST

Copyright: Copyright 2016 American Psychological Association

Prospects for developmental evidence in juvenile sentencing based on Miller v. Alabama.


Recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions barred mandatory life without parole for juvenile homicide (Miller v. Alabama, 2012) and applied Miller retroactively (Montgomery v. Louisiana, 2016). Miller identified several developmental factors to consider in mitigation, but left many questions unanswered about their application. The authors offer several sentencing contexts to frame the types of developmental and clinical evidence that may be relevant for Miller hearings under various circumstances. Within these contexts, they explore types and sources of relevant developmental evidence and raise questions about quality and limitations. Their analysis identifies areas in which appellate court clarification is needed to determine how developmental evidence will be used in Miller cases, and they alert developmental experts to prospects and cautions for providing relevant evidence, as well as areas in need of research. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2016 APA, all rights reserved)(image)

Plea discounts, time pressures, and false-guilty pleas in youth and adults who pleaded guilty to felonies in New York City.


The overwhelming majority of criminal cases are resolved by a guilty plea. Concerns have been raised about the potential for plea bargaining to be coercive, but little is known about the actual choices faced by defendants who plead guilty. Through interviews of youth and adults who pleaded guilty to felonies in New York City, we found that substantial discounts were offered to participants in exchange for their guilty pleas and that a sizable portion of both the youth and adults claimed either that they were completely innocent (27% and 19%, respectively) or that they were not guilty of what they were charged with (20% and 41%, respectively). Participants also reported infrequent contact with their attorneys prior to accepting their plea deals and very short time periods in which to make their decisions. Our findings suggest the plea-bargaining system in New York City may be fraught with promises of leniency, time pressures, and insufficient attorney advisement—factors that may undermine the voluntariness of plea deal decisions for some defendants. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2016 APA, all rights reserved)(image)

Towards the discreet identification of Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children (CSEC) victims and individualized interventions: Science to practice.


The purpose of the present study was to build on the extant Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children (CSEC) screening options available for use in the juvenile justice system, where screenings must be brief, objective, and nonintrusive. Our goal was not to develop a system to identify CSEC victims, but instead to objectively discern CSEC risk in youth to be further examined through a referral process. Risk factors or indicators of risk for CSEC victimization have been proposed, and used to develop semistructured interviews intended to inform clinical judgments. We propose an objective, quantitative decision-making system for determining CSEC risk called the Sex-Trafficking Assessment Review (STAR © 2015 District of Columbia Courts). Participants included 901 youth (95.34% African American; 45.17% female; Mean age = 15.44, SD = 1.50) arrested in Washington, DC. A codebook was developed to aid scoring of STAR items, and kappa interrater reliability coefficients were developed to assure adequate agreement in STAR scores among screeners. An Item Response Theory (IRT) model was applied to STAR scores, and 3 CSEC risk statuses were identified: (a) High Risk, (b) Moderate Risk, and (c) Low Risk. Consistent with the CSEC literature, STAR statuses were associated with depression and other clinical symptoms as well as perceptions and attributions known to be common in sexual abuse victims. Also in keeping with theory, STAR statuses were associated with gender, but not age. Results are discussed in the context of service provision in a juvenile court system, including the implementation of the STAR. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2016 APA, all rights reserved)(image)

When being wise after the event results in injustice: Evidence for hindsight bias in judges’ negligence assessments.


Research on hindsight bias has demonstrated that people perceive and evaluate events differently once they know about their outcome. One facet of hindsight bias is that people often perceive past events as more foreseeable than they do without outcome knowledge. This finding is of great importance in the legal context. Specifically, negligence judgments are based on the decision-makers’ evaluation of how foreseeable the harm that occurred was. Crucially, legal decision-making always takes place after some harm has already occurred (i.e., in hindsight). Whereas numerous studies already document a hindsight bias in laypeople's negligence judgments, the evidence for professional judges is sparse and inconsistent. We conducted an experiment with judges and found negligence judgments in a criminal law case to be also biased by hindsight. Judges with outcome knowledge perceived the occurred harm as significantly more foreseeable, which in turn led to a more frequent affirmation of negligence. We discuss these findings with a focus on implications and potential countermeasures. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2016 APA, all rights reserved)(image)

The threatening nature of “rap” music.


Rap music has had a contentious relationship with the legal system, including censorship, regulation, and artists being arrested for lewd and profane performances. More recently, rap lyrics have been introduced by prosecutors to establish guilt in criminal trials. Some fear this form of artistic expression will be inappropriately interpreted as literal and threatening, perhaps because of stereotypes. Only a handful of studies have examined whether rap lyrics are evaluated using stereotypes, yet these studies were conducted in the 1990s—a period of heightened scrutiny for rap—and used nonoptimal methods. This study presents 3 experiments that examine the impact of genre-specific stereotypes on the evaluation of violent song lyrics by manipulating the musical genre (rap vs. country) while holding constant the actual lyrics. Study 1, a direct replication of previous research, found that participants deemed identical lyrics more literal, offensive, and in greater need of regulation when they were characterized as rap compared with country. Study 2 was a conceptual replication (i.e., same design but different stimuli), and again detected this effect. Study 3 used the same approach but experimentally manipulated the race of the author of the lyrics. A main effect was detected for the genre, with rap evaluated more negatively than country or a control condition with no label. However, no effects were found for the race of the lyrics’ author nor were interactions were detected. Collectively, these findings highlight the possibility that rap lyrics could inappropriately impact jurors when admitted as evidence to prove guilt. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2016 APA, all rights reserved)(image)

Lookin’ for beds in all the wrong places: Outpatient competency restoration as a promising approach to modern challenges.


In response to consistently increasing numbers of individuals found incompetent to stand trial, some states have identified community-based or “outpatient” competency restoration programs (OCRPs) as a viable alternative to inpatient restoration. This study used a multistep approach to capture information about OCRPs nationwide. We reviewed states’ competency statutes to determine which states have provisions that allow for outpatient competency restoration, and we then corroborated this review with a brief preliminary survey that was disseminated to each representative of the Forensic Division of the National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors. We received responses from 48 of 51 U.S. jurisdictions (47 states and the District of Columbia). We conducted in-depth interviews with forensic representatives in those 16 states that identified having operational OCRPS. The current study presents our analysis of state statutes and then compares and contrasts current OCRPs. In summary, OCRPs are a recent but rapidly developing alternative to traditional inpatient restoration. Through a comparison of existing OCRPs, we believe OCRPs show preliminary but promising outcomes in terms of high restoration rates, low program failure rates, and substantial cost savings. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2016 APA, all rights reserved)(image)

Strategic disclosure of evidence: Perspectives from psychology and law.


The police frequently present their evidence to suspects in investigative interviews. Accordingly, psychologists have developed strategic ways in which the police may present evidence to catch suspects lying or to elicit more information from suspects. While research in psychology continues to illustrate the effectiveness of strategic evidence disclosure tactics in lie detection, lawyers and legal research challenge these very tactics as undermining fair trial defense rights. Legal research is alive to the problems associated with strategically disclosing evidence to a suspect, such as preventing lawyers from advising the suspect effectively, increasing custodial pressure for the suspect, and worsening working relations between lawyers and police. This paper brings together the opposing research and arguments from the 2 disciplines of psychology and law, and suggests a new way forward for future research and policy on how the police should disclose evidence. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2016 APA, all rights reserved)(image)

Rule orientation and behavior: Development and validation of a scale measuring individual acceptance of rule violation.


There is individual variation in the extent to which individuals believe it is acceptable to violate legal rules. However, we lack a specific measure that assesses this key internal element of legal decision-making and offending. This article describes the development, validation, and testing of the Rule Orientation scale. At its core, the construct captures the extent to which one thinks about rules in a rigid, rule-oriented manner or in a manner that recognizes exceptions. In the first study, we develop the Rule Orientation scale, demonstrate its convergent and divergent validity with key legal and moral reasoning scales, and find that Rule Orientation relates to hypothetical offending behavior across a variety of low-level crimes. In the second study, we examine whether Rule Orientation predicts the propensity to engage in digital piracy both with and without the explicit threat of punishment. The results indicate that Rule Orientation plays a crucial role in predicting offending behavior and, importantly, does so across enforcement contexts. The findings suggest that an individual with low Rule Orientation may be able to justify offending regardless of whether a system explicitly declares an enforcement campaign, regardless of how the individual perceives the severity of the threatened sanction, and regardless of whether the individual believes social norms support law violation. In understanding ethical decision-making, criminal decision-making, and other strands of legal decision-making, identifying such individual variation is crucial. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2016 APA, all rights reserved)(image)

Compliance without pressure for minimal income policy management.


In a field study for a French public organization, 3 strategies designed to enhance attendance at meetings were compared. Recipients of a minimum income allowance receive invitation letters to orientation meetings; these letters usually emphasize coercion and threaten to withdraw their allowance. This approach has limitations: the participation rate is poor, and the consequences are detrimental for both the organization and the beneficiaries. To overcome those difficulties, we tested alternative ways of promoting compliance without pressure and influence. The first strategy involved sending the traditional peremptory invitation letter; the second strategy involved sending a new version of the letter that emphasized commitment factors and freedom evocation (“the binding mail technique”); and the third strategy involved behaviorally involving the beneficiaries by a combination of binding communication, level of action identification, and freedom evocation before the traditional letter was sent. Results showed that the use of compliance-gaining procedures led the nonattendance rate to diminish from 76% (the peremptory letter) to 57% with the binding mail, and to 33% for the combined techniques. These impressive results, however, are tempered somewhat by the fact that a study in a second agency yielded nonsignificant effects, with nonattendance rates at approximately the same level in all conditions (respectively 52%, 41%, and 43%). Results are discussed in light of commitment theory, social identity theory, and behavioral science; further research is proposed and the adoption of a “binding identities” meta-theoretical perspective advocated. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2016 APA, all rights reserved)(image)