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Forensic Psychology’s Risk Assessment Essay


In recent years, the assessment of the risk of violence has been one of the most discussed issues in the medical and legal community. This problem is actively discussed in the field of forensic psychology. Assessing the risk of involving criminals in serious incidents is essential for the practice of involuntary treatment in psychiatric hospitals. The precision of any prognosis is necessary to increase the effectiveness of control over such patients at the level of preventive measures and during crisis interventions. Various cases of possible risks, which are often encountered by forensic experts, are sometimes displayed in numerous television shows, where specialists, as a rule, efficiently cope with the tasks assigned. One such project is the American TV series “Criminal Minds” (Davis, 2014), which has been broadcast on the CBS channel since 2005. As an example, it is possible to consider one of the episodes of this program, which presents a vivid case of one of the characters’ mental disorders and the ways that professionals resort to solve the problem.

Psychological Literature Review

As scientific peer-reviewed articles, such works are used as “Risk Assessment in Criminal Sentencing” written by Monahan and Skeem (2016) and “Assessment Practices and Expert Judgment Methods in Forensic Psychology and Psychiatry: An International Snapshot” by Neal and Grisso (2014). Both papers have up-to-date information and can be used to draw specific conclusions regarding the role of forensic psychologists in assessing risks related to criminal offenses. Monahan and Skeem (2016) claim that risk assessment should be connected first of all with the search for possible solutions to current problems and not with attempts to pass sentences.

The authors also note that forensic psychologists have a rather large responsibility since these professionals should understand quite precisely what type of problem they are dealing with and whether the issue can be resolved through the treatment of the accused when imposing a particular punishment (Monahan & Skeem, 2016). Neal and Grisso (2014) note that over the past few decades, the field of forensic psychology has moved far enough to draw competent conclusions based on the assumptions of specialists in this area. The development of this medical sphere makes it possible to exclude potential errors related to sentencing in certain criminal cases and also allows accurately assessing possible risks (Neal & Grisso, 2014).

The article written by Monahan and Skeem (2016) includes the authors’ thoughts regarding the importance of forensic psychology in the modern judicial system. The work has a clear structure and key findings, which are the logical conclusion of the study. Neal and Grisso (2014) present several diagrams and tables in their work, in which they show the approaches used by different specialists to assess risks, and also demonstrate the dynamics of certain techniques implementation in the process of psychologists’ professional activity. This paper also has rather clear arguments and logical conclusions. The two studies were published not long ago and are peer-reviewed works. Therefore, both articles are relevant and can be used as additional sources for the analysis of risk assessment in the sphere of forensic psychology.

Media Portrayal

As the television show to analyze the story from the perspective of forensic psychology, the American series “Criminal Minds” was chosen (Davis, 2014). This project has been broadcast on television for a rather long time, and today, thirteen seasons have been submitted. The main characters of the program regularly encounter strange and unexplained cases that have a relationship to crime and often cannot be explained logically. The team of experienced specialists continually faces strange and mysterious situations, many of which are directly related to the psychology and deviant behavior of criminals. A significant moment is a fact that in most cases, the characters successfully solve challenging situations and find solutions to the seemingly most difficult problems. Perhaps, that is why the show has quite a lot of popularity among viewers and is considered one of the most well-known projects related to forensic science.

The subject of the study is the ninth episode of the tenth season of the series. Experts find out that on the territory of northern Virginia, there is a dangerous and utterly unpredictable maniac who continually devises sophisticated methods of murder and certainly has an unstable psyche. As Hilton, Simpson, and Ham (2016) note, measuring the risk of violence is always the assessment of people to determine what will lead them to commit criminal acts in the future. It is what the main characters are doing. They try to find the motives for the killer’s behavior and understand what exactly makes him commit unreasonably brutal crimes. At the same time, the task of specialists is complicated by the fact that they have very little time as more and more new victims are found, and the police cannot cope independently and catch the maniac. The assessment of risks, in this case, must take place at a deep level as there is undoubtedly some regularity in all the murders committed. That is why the characters of the series need to determine who can be the next potential victim of this mentally unhealthy person. A described case has quite a tight relation to the stated topic under research and can be considered as one of the examples of criminologists and forensic psychologists’ work.

Another issue faced by one of the characters of the series is working with a strange woman who hides her past. In the course of events, it becomes clear that she has some mental deviations and can be dangerous. According to Brown and Singh (2014), the task of forensic psychologists is to assess potential risks timely and determine whether this or that case deserves particular attention or not. Moreover, specialists need not only to make an accurate prediction about the cause of a specific disorder but also ensure that a potential criminal will not harm the surrounding people (Guyton & Jackson, 2015). Therefore, the work of the series’ characters aims at solving all these problems, and the portrayal of some vivid examples of professionals’ practice is entirely accurate.


Thus, a described episode of the series presents rather vivid examples of the cases that forensic psychologists have to face when assessing potential risks. The work of these specialists is characterized by control over the condition of patients who are capable of committing inadequate criminal actions. The reviewed scientific literature has quite relevant arguments and conclusions, which reveal the need for carefully planned work on risk assessment in this area. As potential implications, the creators of the series offer several storylines that show how the work of forensic psychologists can be realized, as well as what measures they take to avoid the dangerous consequences of mental disorders in criminals.


Brown, J., & Singh, J. P. (2014). Forensic risk assessment: A beginner’s guide. Archives of Forensic Psychology, 1(1), 49-59.

Davis, J. (Creator). (2014). Criminal minds [Video file]. Web.

Guyton, M. R., & Jackson, R. L. (2015). Violence risk assessment. In R. L. Jackson & R. Roesch (Eds.), Learning forensic assessment: Research and practice (2nd ed.) (pp. 131-161). New York, NY: Routledge.

Hilton, N. Z., Simpson, A. I., & Ham, E. (2016). The increasing influence of risk assessment on forensic patient review board decisions. Psychological Services, 13(3), 223-231.

Monahan, J., & Skeem, J. L. (2016). Risk assessment in criminal sentencing. Annual Review of Clinical Psychology, 12, 489-513.

Neal, T. M., & Grisso, T. (2014). Assessment practices and expert judgment methods in forensic psychology and psychiatry: An international snapshot. Criminal Justice and Behavior, 41(12), 1406-1421.

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