Areas of Concern in Juvenile Forensic Psychology
In juvenile forensic psychology, there are several areas of concerns that pertain to today’s contemporary society. One area of concern is a juvenile’s understanding of his or her constitutional rights when faced under pressure by law enforcement. According to Introduction to Forensic Psychology Research and Application, this concern is the largest “as new studies show that juveniles are more likely to come into contact with police, courts, and correctional facilities more than any other time in history” (Bartol & Bartol, 2012, p. 188).
Several juveniles in the United States do not know their Miranda Rights or any other constitutional rights. This could be from not being present in school, growing up in poverty and not going to school, or several other reasons. The biggest red flag is that the parents do not either. The child will release all information to the police officer as he or she believes that they are doing the right thing so they do not end up in trouble at home with their parents. Many times the parents will encourage to cooperate with law enforcement and do what they say. These juveniles are self incriminating themselves without themselves or parents realizing this. According to an Academic Journal by the American Psychological Association, ” Annually, more than 1.5 million juvenile offenders are arrested and routinely Mirandized with little consideration regarding the comprehensibility of these warnings” (“The comprehensibility and content of juvenile Miranda warnings,” 2008, p. 63).
This is a hefty predicament. 1.5 million offenders were arrested with no thought to their comprehension. The juvenile can waive their rights if he or she knows willingly and fully understands those rights. There have also been some studies to see what portion of the Miranda rights are understood and also translated to something other than what is being presented (Cooper & Zapf, 2008). This is a serious concern in Juvenile Forensic Psychology. This area of concern needs to be addressed. One idea to reduce the number of 1.5 million juveniles would be education. Some high schools have to memorize the Miranda and recite in the classroom. This is a good idea but should be applied better. High schools and middle schools should be incorporating this into the curriculum. After the juveniles have full comprehension of the rights, have classmates dissect a case to involve critical thinking while applying it to current events. A second idea would be for law enforcement to visit classrooms and have the children witness how it really happens. This will give them a better understanding as they can apply it to real life experiences.
Another area of concern in the juvenile system are false confessions. This ties in with the first concern of the adolescents not knowing his or her rights. Juveniles might be under high pressure during interrogation and coercion tactics by law enforcement causing them to confess to a crime that he or she did not commit. This is where the psychologist could step in to look at the psychological factors of how officers interrogate their suspects. The professional could also get the confession thrown out if he or she believes that the juvenile was forced under pressure or was ignorant to his or her rights. The psychologist could witness the interrogation because the juvenile may make a false confession as they were confused or to protect a family member. If the psychologist is not present, law enforcement could tell the juvenile that they have supporting evidence against them and in reality they do not (Bartol & Bartol, 2012).
According to the research textbook, Introduction to Forensic Psychology, there was a study that researched what ages are more likely to make a false confession and what the percentage was of how many made a false confession. According to the study made by Redlich and Goodman in 2003, “69% of all participants falsely confessed” (Bartol & Bartol, 2012, p. 201). 69% is a large number. This is a large concern because how many other juveniles have confessed to a crime that they didn’t commit and did not have a psychologist as back up to evaluate the confession and evidence? Juveniles could be in jails maybe prisons and potentially tried as an adult.
This area of concern needs to be addressed, but by who? Does this relay on parents, psychologists, law enforcement, schools, or the community? All parties are responsible for addressing this concern and coming up with a solution. The parents should teach their children about his or her constitutional rights and explain what could happen in a situation. Schools should reiterate what the parents are teaching. Law enforcement’s tactics could be tweaked and have an attorney or psychologist present while undergoing the interrogation.
There are numerous areas within juvenile forensic psychology that need improvement, however false confessions and competence of Miranda Rights are the two that would have the largest impact. These can be addressed immediately and enforced over time. By having these concerns addressed, hopefully that 69% percent will drop and less juveniles will end up in a predicament with law enforcement.
Bartol, C. A., & Bartol, A. M. (2012). Introduction to Forensic Psychology Research and Application (3rd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications Inc.
Cooper, V. G., & Zapf, P. A. (2008, October). Psychiatric patients’ comprehension of Miranda rights. Law and Human Behavior, 32(5), 390-405. doi:10.1007/s10979-007-9099-3
Rogers, R., Hazelwood, L. L., Sewell, K. W., Shuman, D. W., & Blackwood, H. L. (2008, February). The comprehensibility and content of juvenile Miranda warnings. Psychology, Public Policy, and Law, 14(1), 63-87. doi:10.1037/a0013102