Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Behavioral Sciences & the Law Abstracts

Volume 25, Issue 4
Special Issue: Current Directions . Issue Edited by Charles Patrick Ewing.
Published Online: 7 May 2007

The function of punishment in the civil commitment of sexually violent predators
Kevin M. Carlsmith, John Monahan, Alison Evans
Pages 437 - 448

Two experiments find that support for civil commitment procedures for sexually violent predators is based primarily upon the retributive rather than incapacitative goals of respondents. Two discrete samples composed of students (N = 175) and jury-eligible citizens (N = 200) completed experimental surveys assessing their support or opposition to scenarios in which a sexual predator was to be released after completing his criminal sentence. Respondents were sensitive to likelihood of recidivism only when the initial sentence was sufficiently punitive. When initial sentence was lenient, respondents strongly supported civil commitment without regard to future risk. Results are discussed in light of the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in Kansas v. Hendricks ([1997]) on the constitutionality of civil commitment laws for sexually violent predators.

Constructing insanity: jurors' prototypes, attitudes, and legal decision-making
Jennifer Eno Louden, Jennifer L Skeem
Pages 449 - 470

Research consistently indicates that jurors' intuitive prototypes of insanity and case-relevant attitudes shape their verdicts more strongly than legal definitions of insanity. Based on a sample of 113 prospective jurors, this study was designed to (a) assess the extent to which three prototypes of insanity held by jurors in a past study generalize to a sample of jurors in another state and (b) determine the relative influence of attitudes toward the insanity defense and prototypes of insanity on jurors' case judgments across four insanity case vignettes. Results suggest that jurors' attitudes toward the insanity defense affected case judgments so strongly (r = .41-.61) that they swamped efforts to assess jurors' prototypes of insanity. Further, jurors' prototypes of insanity offered little incremental utility beyond that of insanity defense attitudes. Implications for identifying biased jurors and potential interventions for bringing jurors' decisions into greater accord with the law are discussed.

Determining dangerousness in sexually violent predator evaluations: cognitive-experiential self-theory and juror judgments of expert testimony
Joel D. Lieberman, Daniel A. Krauss, Mariel Kyger, Maribeth Lehoux
Pages 507 - 526

Past research examining the effects of expert testimony on the future dangerousness of a defendant in death penalty sentencing found that jurors are more influenced by less scientific clinical expert testimony and tend to devalue scientific actuarial testimony. This study was designed to determine whether these findings extend to civil commitment trials for sexual offenders and to test a theoretical rationale for this effect. In addition, we investigated the influence of a recently developed innovation in risk assessment procedures, Guided Professional Judgment (GPJ) instruments. Consistent with a cognitive-experiential self-theory based explanation, mock jurors motivated to process information in an experiential condition were more influenced by clinical testimony, while mock jurors in a rational mode were more influenced by actuarial testimony. Participants responded to clinical and GPJ testimony in a similar manner. However, participants' gender exerted important interactive effects on dangerousness decisions, with male jurors showing the predicted effect while females did not. The policy implications of these findings are discussed.

Megan's law and its impact on community re-entry for sex offenders
Jill S. Levenson, David A. D'Amora, Andrea L. Hern
Pages 587 - 602

Community notification, known as Megan's Law, provides the public with information about known sex offenders in an effort to assist parents and potential victims to protect themselves from dangerous predators. The purpose of this study was to explore the impact of community notification on the lives of registered sex offenders. Two hundred and thirty-nine sex offenders in Connecticut and Indiana were surveyed. The negative consequences that occurred with the greatest frequency included job loss, threats and harassment, property damage, and suffering of household members. A minority of sex offenders reported housing disruption or physical violence following community notification. The majority experienced psychosocial distress such as depression, shame, and hopelessness. Recommendations are made for community notification policies that rely on empirically derived risk assessment classification systems in order to better inform the public about sex offenders' danger while minimizing the obstacles that interfere with successful community reintegration.

Criminality and continued DUI offense: criminal typologies and recidivism among repeat offenders
Richard A. LaBrie, Rachel C. Kidman, Mark Albanese, Allyson J. Peller, Howard J. Shaffer
Pages 603 - 614

We examined over 20,000 arraignment records to define criminal typologies and post-treatment driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI) convictions for a select cohort of 1,281 repeat DUI offenders who were offered and elected treatment as an alternative to incarceration; we compared this information with a similar data analysis collected 20 years previously. Analyses of 8,600 prior-to-treatment convictions defined four basic crime profiles: only DUI and other substance-related offenses (60%), plus crimes against property (18%), plus crimes against people (8%), plus crimes against both property and people (13%). During the six years after inpatient treatment, 15.5% of the cohort was convicted of another DUI. The reoffense rate was significantly different across criminal types and was not related to the time post treatment years at risk. The findings show there has been no significant improvement in treatment outcome over the last 20 years. New and innovative DUI offender policies and practices are needed to better engage the heterogeneous offender population, and reduce the incidence of repeat DUI.

(h/t Psychology and Crime News)

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