March 11, 2011

New column: Ethics and captive populations

A recent photo in the Los Angeles Times pictured a psychologist administering therapy to a group of men locked in cages the size of phone booths. An expert advised that the cages should be called "therapeutic modules," lest the prisoners "feel like animals and respond accordingly." The arrangement is the prison's response to a judicial mandate to provide treatment to mentally ill prisoners. But as the photo illustrates, much prison therapy is far removed from traditional treatments that psychologists are trained to provide.

So begins my "Ethics Corner" column in the current issue of California Psychologist magazine, which evolved out of a blog post a few months ago, "Prison therapy: It's all in the name." The full column is HERE. I have also created a stand-alone web page of selected resources on correctional ethics (HERE).

Wearing body armor and sitting just out of urination range, psychologist Daniel Tennenbaum tries to engage Vacaville prisoners to sing along with "Sitting on the Dock of the Bay." Photo credit Los Angeles Times.
A plug for the CPA: For those of you in California, I hope you will think about joining the California Psychological Association if you are not already a member. The CPA gives psychologists a voice, has local associations that facilitate networking (and socializing), and provides a number of member benefits, including the Ethics Committee's free hotline.

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