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Psychology, Public Policy, and Law - Vol 23, Iss 1

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Psychology, Public Policy, and Law Psychology, Public Policy, and Law focuses on the links between psychology as a science and public policy and law.
Copyright 2017 American Psychological Association
  • An examination of showups conducted by law enforcement using a field-simulation paradigm.
    While there is a growing body of research examining the relatively “cold,” cognitive decision-making components of showups, few attempts have been made to capture the “hot” affective components of showups that are thought to exacerbate the suggestiveness of the procedure. In 3 simulated-field experiments, we partnered with law enforcement to examine how participants who were led to believe they were involved in an actual criminal investigation (Field-simulation condition) differed from participants who knew they were not part of an actual investigation (Lab-simulation condition). We staged crimes for both conditions, but in the field-simulation condition, law enforcement personnel carried out mock investigations that culminated with a live showup. In Experiment 1 (N = 321), which did not include a culprit-present condition, the field-simulation condition increased innocent suspect identifications. The standard showup admonition decreased innocent suspect identifications, but only for dissimilar innocent suspects. Experiment 2 (N = 196) added a culprit-present condition and found that the field-simulation condition increased innocent suspect and culprit identifications to a similar extent. Experiment 3 (N = 367) replicated the findings of Experiment 2 and examined the impact of admonishing eyewitnesses that if they did not believe the suspect was the culprit, they might have additional opportunities to make an identification. Confidence-accuracy calibration analyses revealed that confidence discriminated accurate from inaccurate identifications in the field, but not in the lab; however, eyewitnesses who made identifications in the field were overconfident and across all levels of confidence were less likely to be correct than eyewitnesses who made identifications in the lab. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
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  • Temporary absences from prison in Canada reduce unemployment and reoffending: Evidence for dosage effects from an exploratory study.
    Temporary absences (TAs) from prison are intended to assist gradual reintegration. TAs can be either escorted (ETA) or unescorted (UTA). This exploratory study examined who received TAs, ETAs, and UTAs in Canadian federal prisons and the impact of these absences on community outcomes. The sample included 27,098 offenders released to the community between April 1, 2005 and March 31, 2011. Propensity scores for receiving TAs were used to control for group differences in outcome analyses. Participation rates were 22% for ETAs and 4% for UTAs. The strongest predictor was sentence length: Offenders with longer prison sentences were more likely to receive TAs. Other key predictors included moderate risk, higher motivation level, and fewer problems with institutional adjustment and on prior periods of community supervision. Participation was related to significantly lower levels of unemployment, returns to custody for any reason, and returns to custody for a new offense. Furthermore, a significant dosage effect was found for all TAs and ETAs: The more TAs the offender received, the less likely they were to return a custody. Absences from prison play an important role in gradual reintegration to the community, and the more the offenders participate in, the better the outcomes. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
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  • Do sexually victimized female prisoners perceive justice in litigation process and outcomes?
    Sexual victimization during incarceration has been declared cruel and unusual punishment. Although the Prison Rape Elimination Act mandated new standards, the problem persists. Class action litigation is an alternate strategy to ensure prisoners’ rights are protected. However, even when such litigation is successful, there is little known about the participants’ perceptions of whether justice was attained in the process (procedural) or outcomes (distributive). Neal v. MDOC (1998), a class action settled on behalf of 809 women sexually abused by staff during incarceration, is a landmark case with national implications. Understanding participant perceptions can enhance those implications. Using surveys mailed to participants residing in the community with valid addresses (n = 399), 156 women responded (39% response rate). Three scales measured procedural/distributive justice and a path analysis used explanatory variables as multivariate regressors on the scales to determine how individual and contextual factors affected perceptions. Perceptions of justice were positively associated with women’s motivations to ‘do the right thing’ and their feelings of empowerment. Perceptions of prison improvement were positively related to themes that the corrections department was punished; negatively associated with staff retaliation. Predictably, women who were currently unemployed and seeking employment had lower scores on the Financial Benefit Scale whereas those endorsing security from settlement funds rated it higher. Because of the intersections of race, class, gender, and legal status, incarcerated women are rarely heard or validated. This lawsuit provided an opportunity for both. Importantly, women less positive about justice wanted their individual perpetrators punished—an unattainable goal in this class action. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
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  • An international human rights perspective on maternal criminal justice involvement in the United States.
    Internationally and historically unprecedented numbers of women in the United States are under criminal justice supervision in jails, prisons, and the community. Pregnant women and mothers with minor children comprise a large proportion of this population. The rise in criminal justice oversight and incarceration rates has differentially impacted a highly vulnerable population of women and children. This article outlines an international human rights perspective on the criminal justice involvement of pregnant women and mothers with minor children, and describes common and broadly accepted U.S. criminal justice practices in the areas of pregnancy, birth, and contact with children that differ from a rights-based approach. Using the United Nations-developed Bangkok Rules and existing research as a foundation, the authors conclude by advancing recommendations for more humane approaches to pregnant and parenting women and their children that would bring the United States more closely in line with international standards. This article capitalizes on the increased attention currently being placed on the U.S. criminal justice system to highlight continued problems and provide humane solutions that draw on international approaches while also fitting a U.S. context. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
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  • Should infants and toddlers have frequent overnight parenting time with fathers? The policy debate and new data.
    Whether children of separated parents 2 years of age and younger should have frequent overnight parenting time with noncustodial fathers has been the subject of much debate but little data. Contrary to some previous findings, the current study found benefits to both parent-child relationships associated with overnights (a) up to and including equal numbers of overnights at both parents’ homes, (b) for both the long-term mother-child and father-child relationships, and (c) both when children were 2 years old, as well as when they were under 1 year of age. These benefits held after controlling for subsequent parenting time with fathers in childhood and adolescence, parent education and conflict up to 5 years after the separation, and children’s sex and age at separation. While the findings do not establish causality they provide strong support for policies to encourage frequent overnight parenting time for infants and toddlers, because the benefits associated with overnights also held for parents who initially agreed about overnights as well as for those who disagreed and had the overnight parenting plan imposed over 1 parent’s objections. The observed benefits for the long-term father-child relationship are consistent with findings from intervention studies showing that fathers who are more involved with infants and toddlers develop better parenting skills and relationships with their children. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
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  • Using couple-level patterns of intimate partner violence to predict divorce outcomes.
    With the high rates of marriages ending in divorce, and many experiencing intimate partner violence (IPV), it is important to understand divorce process outcomes for couples alleging IPV. There are several proposed couple-level typologies of IPV, but few have strong empirical support. Our previous work tested one typology using a data-driven clustering technique (latent class analyses). The utility of any of these typologies in predicting divorce mediation process, postdivorce and law enforcement outcomes has not been tested. The current study using archival data investigates these outcomes in relation to our data-driven IPV couple types from our previous work. This is the only study to test the utility of a set of dyadic-data-driven IPV couple types with a second method, a mediator’s dichotomous decision regarding whether IPV is present in a case, using a large (N = 965) epidemiological sample of matched husband–wife data. Results indicate the latter method is more useful in predicting the status of mediation agreements; however, the IPV couple types provide a more nuanced understanding of the associations with specific status of mediation agreements, postdecree hearings and orders, and increased contact with law enforcement. This study assists mental health professionals, court personnel, and researchers to understand how patterns of IPV differentially impact outcomes of divorce mediation and postdivorce process. To reduce the costly use of precious judicial and family court resources, courts need to again consider establishing policies of early identification and differentiated case management (or triage) of identifiable couples alleging high levels of IPV victimization. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
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  • Life without parole for juvenile offenders: Public sentiments.
    The United States Supreme Court recently abolished mandatory life in prison without parole (LWOP) for juvenile offenders, holding that the practice is inconsistent with the eighth amendment’s cruel and unusual punishment clause, and its “evolving standards of decency” jurisprudence. The Court explicitly left open the question of whether nonmandatory LWOP is consistent with these constitutional standards. This article examines the public’s sentiment concerning juvenile LWOP. An online sample (n = 599) weighted to be representative of the U.S. population was queried about juvenile LWOP as a general policy and in response to a specific case in which they had to impose a prison sentence on a juvenile convicted of murder. The age of the juvenile was experimentally manipulated as either 12 or 16. Overall, 31% of participants favored juvenile LWOP as a general policy while 55% were willing to impose juvenile LWOP in a specific case. The age of the juvenile moderated this effect, such that participants were more willing to impose LWOP on a 16-year-old than a 12-year-old both as a general policy matter and in the specific case. A majority of participants were consistent in their preferred punishment across both the general and specific inquiries, including 30% who selected LWOP. Political affiliation was the only demographic variable that predicted consistency in preferred punishment. Additionally, participants who consistently endorsed juvenile LWOP placed greater emphasis on retribution and deterrence as goals of punishment while individuals who evidenced inconsistent punishment preferences placed a greater emphasis on rehabilitation. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
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  • And justice for all: Determinants and effects of probation officers’ processing decisions regarding first-time juvenile offenders.
    When a youth is accused of committing a crime, juvenile justice system arbiters, such as probation officers, interview both the youth and the youth’s guardian to gather information before deciding to either process the youth formally or informally. Factors about a youth that are unrelated to the criminal charge may contribute to arbiters’ processing decisions. Such extralegal factors include demographic characteristics and characteristics of the youth’s context (e.g., home environment, peer delinquency). Little is known about how extralegal factors other than age and race affect youth processing. The present study draws on data from probation officer assessment interviews with 359 male, first-time, low-level juvenile offenders, as well as longitudinal self-report and official records of a youth’s reoffending after his first arrest, to determine how extralegal factors affect probation processing decisions, and whether processing is associated with youth reoffending and rearrest. The results indicate that even after taking into account legal factors and demographic characteristics, youth are more likely to be processed formally if they refuse to comment on the charge, if their probation officers believe their guardians to be relatively more disapproving of their friends, and if their probation officers perceive their home environments to be more problematic. Although youth who are processed formally self-report reoffending at the same rate as youth who are processed informally, youth who are processed formally are more likely to be rearrested in the subsequent 6 months. Implications for how processing decisions may promote sustained involvement in the juvenile justice system are discussed. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
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  • Applying the lessons of developmental psychology to the study of juvenile interrogations: New directions for research, policy, and practice.
    Police interrogation of criminal suspects is a core function of the American justice system that involves numerous cognitive, social, and other psychological processes. While a robust psycholegal literature on police interrogation has emerged, the subset of that literature focusing on adolescent suspects is less cohesive, despite substantial and well-known developmental differences between adult and juvenile suspects. With a few notable exceptions, the current juvenile interrogation literature has not systematically leveraged the many lessons of normative adolescent development that have emerged from basic scientific research. Developmental psychology has much to offer the study of juvenile interrogation, and as police–youth interactions increasingly capture the public’s attention and raise important questions about how police handle juveniles, now is the time to adopt a more explicitly developmental approach. This article highlights key features of adolescent psychosocial, neurobiological, and social development that are directly relevant to the police interrogation context. It argues that an explicit recognition of developmental principles is vital to juvenile suspects’ due process rights and to the future of juvenile interrogation research. The article outlines specific directions for future research on juvenile interrogation, including recommendations for interdisciplinary collaborations, laboratory research, and field studies. It then discusses implications of several key recommendations for interrogation policy and practice as they apply specifically to juvenile suspects. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
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