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Correctional Psychology and Its Procedures Research Paper

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Updated: Aug 20th, 2019


Psychology is a very broad area that covers various aspects of human life. Correctional psychology is a branch of psychology which works on the principle of applying psychology as a means of correcting behavior in a correctional setting through processes like rehabilitation, treatment among others.

Correctional psychology is under forensic psychology which is a field that utilizes psychological procedures in the justice system. Forensic psychology is an area that is practiced by a variety of persons in their work for instance researchers, correctional psychologists and clinical psychologists. Personnel in the criminal justice system with vast knowledge on psychology may also practice it in their duties.

This paper gives a detailed discussion on correctional psychology covering aspects like the personality inventories used in selection of correction psychologist, duties and activities of a correctional psychologist and the challenges faced, the career opportunities in the field of correctional psychology as well as the goal of incarceration and challenges faced by the correctional psychologists in their activities and practices.

Three Personality Inventories Used For Correctional Psychologist Selection and Their Validity

The psychologist’s role in the personnel selection process is not far-reaching. Most of the applicants are not usually qualified and some have different interests where they come with the opposite perception of the job taking it as that of a police officer rather than the underrated routine and neglected role of a correctional officer.

The psychologist is however charged with the responsibility of screening correctional officer applications in terms of mental competency by ensuring that the candidates do not suffer from any mental illness which may make them incapable of dealing with the stressing conditions that surrounds a correctional psychologist.

There are various personality inventories that are applied in the process of selection of collection psychologists. Here are some of them and their validity. The inward personality inventory is an inventory that aids in the screening and selection of correctional psychologists. It has 26 scales that are used to gauge the stress reactions and unexpected behavior among the candidates looking at aspects like lateness and absenteeism, antisocial behavior and use of drugs and alcohol.

This is a good way to measure of personality as it has shown positive result. It was once able to accurately categorize 73 percent of 719 male correctional officers showing whether they qualified for the hire or not. The MMPI produced a 63 percent accuracy rate for the same hence its efficiency and effectiveness (Correia, 2009).

The Minnesota multiphase personality inventory (MMPI) is also a tool utilized in the selection process. It is one of the regularly used inventories in personality assessment. It however have some drawbacks since it is very long with some old scales making the process of testing lengthy though it still have some relevance as it measures truth in the information provided by the candidates.

It is also useful in measuring the psychological distress and dysfunction of the candidates. This inventory has also undergone some revisions for instance the MMPI-2 among others in an effort to better its efficiency and effectiveness (Black et al., 2004).

The revised NEO personality inventory (NEO PI-R) is also an inventory that is used in the selection process. It was established from the five-factor theory of normal personality functioning.

It has proved to be very essential in the selection process as it can gauge various behavior of the candidates for example the academic levels, firearm use, physical training among other factors that should be assessed in the selection of the correctional officers. It is through the examination of the personality functioning and use of the results attained that the selection could be effective.

This inventory is a measure of five domains of personality together with the facets associated with the domains. These are aimed at coming up with an informed and detailed assessment of an individual’s personality. It checks on aspects like anxiety, impulsiveness, extraversion, vulnerability, and openness to experience, trust and straightforwardness, compliance, deliberation, ability to strive achievement among others (Detrick, 2004).

Career Opportunities in Correctional Psychology

There are a variety career opportunities in the field of forensic psychology in general and also in the specification of correctional psychology. The career opportunities provided in forensic psychology and correctional psychology include; training opportunities, health care, psychology, chaplaincy, education, operational support, and administration and management schemes, catering among other opportunities.

The correctional psychologists undertake some duties like overseeing convicts, facilitating community outreach programs, educating and treating the offenders, coordinating supervised release programs and working closely with offenders as they re-integrate with the community. They also undertake forensic assessment and offer treatment services in institutions and correctional settings and undertake some legal activities aimed at assisting law enforcement officers.

They are as well engaged in research activities aimed at improving their correctional services and the field of psychology in general. The field of correctional psychology has a lot of career opportunities and those involved could find themselves attached in any work place due the fact that their skills and knowledge could be applied in almost all field of life increasing their chances of being employed (Cherry, n.d).

There are various benefits associated with having a career in correctional psychology some of which are having an opportunity to assist others to improve on their lives which could not be possible in some other careers especially those that do not involve interaction with people.

It also exposes a person to numerous career paths for instance consulting, education, government and criminal courts a chance which is not there in many careers that emphasize on specialization. It is also a career that is very rewarding although it has a lot of challenges due to the satisfaction experienced by the employees as they help people.

It is however not without some drawbacks for example, it requires considerable commitment in terms of time required in training and also the tasks are very involving and stressing. The benefits in terms of pay are also low compared to the education acquired and work done. The correctional psychologists are also faced with problems like stress and frustration especially when the criminals seem hard to deal with.

Duties and Activities of a Correctional Psychologist in the Department Of Corrections

A correctional psychologist is charged with various duties all aimed at correcting the behavior of the people involved in various correctional settings. The psychologists for example give direct services to the inmates which may include intervening in case of crisis and administering therapy to individuals and groups of people where need be for example where the affected people are deemed to have abused drugs, alcohol and other substances, committed sexual abuse or being involved in violent and criminal activities.

Administering of psychological assessment techniques is also part of the duties of a correctional psychologist. The assessment techniques could either be of educational, vocational, based on personality, intellectual or even attitude essence depending on the specifications of the case in question.

It is after administering the techniques that the correctional psychologist is expected to interpret the results attained and use them to prepare comprehensive and informative reports whose recommendations are very significant in decision making. They are particularly used in the release of the inmates, changing their security conditions and most importantly they guide in the process of assigning programs to the inmate or those in probation and parole sessions.

It is also the responsibility of a correctional psychologist to offer consultation services in relation to corrections employees for instance the process of screening and selection, offering counseling session, and also mental health consultation in collaboration with other personnel for instance the crisis support teams. The correctional psychologists also engage in research work which is deemed to be of significance in the field of correctional psychology and general psychology as a whole (Dvoskin and Spier, 2004).

The correctional psychologists are involved in activities like evaluating candidates who may reveal some history of treatment by a psychiatrist. This may be done through extensive private interviews to gauge the extent to which they can cope with the stress and isolation associated with the work of a correctional psychologist.

They are also entitled with the maintenance of security in the institutions and safety for all those in their custody and also offering rehabilitation services to the inmates. They also offer mental health care to the institutions including consultation, prevention of suicide and other offenses, making sure that the inmate are treated in a humane manner, prevention of substance abuse and intervening in times of crisis (Tewksbury, R and Ehrhardt, 2008).

The Goals of Incarceration

According to Rafner (2010), Incarceration is the confinement of an individual in jail as a form of punishment for a crime or offence committed. Individuals are incarcerated when they are suspected or convicted of committing a criminal offence.

There are various goals of incarceration the main ones being for custodial, rehabilitation and reintegration purposes. Incarceration aims at correcting and changing the behavior of prison inmates. The process is administered with the main goal of ensuring that the convicted criminals are positive and productive by the time they terminate their jail terms.

Custodial is one of the goals of the incarceration process. It aims at protecting citizens from any criminal acts that could be perpetrated by the convicts when they are among them. It acts under the principle that when the dangerous members of the community are confined in the prisons, the law abiding citizens are more secure.

It also minimizes the chances of the inmates engaging in other criminal activities while they are still serving their sentences. It ensures that security, discipline and order are maintained through the use of the rules in the prisons. The behavior of the inmates can easily be maintained while they are in custody of the law enforcers as compared to when they are not.

Rehabilitation is the other goal of incarceration and is executed through various means for instance individual and group counseling especially where the convicts are involved with acts of violence or abuse of substances. Counseling instills sense in them as they are informed of the effects of their acts and the advantages of avoiding them.

Provision of training in various fields of life also help in the rehabilitation process as they are able to gain skills and knowledge which help them to be busy and productive while in prison and also after their release. Therapy also helps in rehabilitation for instance the anger and stress management therapies (Sprott, and Doob, 1998).

Reintegration entails the transition of the inmates from the law enforcement facilities back to the community. It is a process that emphasizes on maintaining the offender’s ties to their families and the community at large as a way of reforming, bearing in mind the fact that the prisoners will at one point return to the society.

The integration model allows the correctional psychologist and other prison staff to gradually give the inmates greater freedom and responsibilities while they are still confined by engaging them in programs that help them adapt well to the community life before they are released.

All this collectively works towards keeping the society safe from the dangerous offenders or criminals and also changing the lives of the criminals through rehabilitation ensuring that they are able to live positively and productively once they are outside the prisons rather than engaging in criminal activities once more hence getting back to the custody of the law enforcers.

This is done through isolation which prevents chances of committing more crimes, some punishment, deterrence of others from committing crimes and changing of perceptions and attitudes (Lawston, 2008).

Challenges Faced By Correctional Psychologists in the Performance of Their Duties

The work of the correctional psychologists is not that smooth and it is faced with a lot of challenges especially due to its nature where it entails too much stress and isolation.

Some of the challenges faced include the development of an integrated theoretical framework which is very vital in executing and managing the activities and practices they engage in, the establishment and definition of the classifications of persons in the facilities together with practical relevance that support the treatment alternatives and development of treatment and control strategies as well as evaluating their effectiveness and effectiveness.

The correctional psychologists also encounter the challenge of devising efficient and effective means for utilization of research, development of data and information bases that is utilized by social agencies especially those who handle crime and delinquency programs.

This information aid in evaluation and monitoring of the programs and also enhances research. They also get difficulties in collection of information for assessment and treatment since some clients are not willing to offer personal information making the process of rehabilitation difficult as the needs of the clients are not well known.

The correctional psychologists also have to manage their emotions, feelings and biases when handling their clients to avoid compromising the assessment process or developing stress and depression. They also deal with the manipulative nature of their clients who may be difficult to handle. Little pay in relation to the education got and work done is also a challenge as it affects their living standards negatively (Gottfredson, 1972).


Correctional psychology is a very active and fast growing branch of forensic psychology and lot of importance has been attached to it. The services of correctional psychologists are greatly essential because they make considerable contributions in correcting behavior for instance through the classification of inmates using the inmate classification systems, psychological assessments, substance abuse treatment, employment of crisis intervention strategies, and evaluation of programs among other services.

Reference List

Black, S.M et al. (2004).Using the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory-2 (MMPI-2) to Detect Psychological Distress and Dysfunction in a State Correctional Setting. Criminal Justice and Behavior journal vol. 31 no. 6 734-751.

Cherry, K. (n.d.). . Web.

Correia, M.K. (2009). A Handbook for Correctional Psychologists: Guidance for the Prison Practitioner.2nd ed. USA: Charles C Thomas Publisher.

Detrick, P. (2004).The Revised NEO Personality Inventory as Predictor of Police Academy Performance. Criminal Justice and Behavior journal vol. 31 no. 6 676-694.

Dvoskin, A. J and Spier, M.E. (2004). On The Role of Correctional Officer in Prison Mental Health. Psychiatric quarterly Vol. 75, number 1, 41-59.

Gottfredson, M.D. (1972). Five Challenges. Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency July 1972 vol. 9 no. 2 68-86.

Lawston, M.J. (2008).Women, the Criminal Justice System, and Incarceration: Processes of Power, Silence, and Resistance. NWSA Journal, Volume 20, Number 2, pp. 1-18.

Rafner, D. (2010). Goals of Incarceration & Rehabilitation. Web.

Sprott, B.J. and Doob, N.A. (1998). Understanding Provincial Variation in Incarceration Rates. Canadian Journal of Criminology, Vol. 40.

Tewksbury, R and Ehrhardt, E. (2008). Correctional Orientations of Prison Staff. The Prison Journal Volume: 88 Issue: 2, 207-233.

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