Recently published (Oxford University Press) in the American Psychology-Law Society’s Book Series, Using Social Science to Reduce Violent Offending provides a great resource for anyone interested in violent offending or working with violent offenders. This article provides a summary of the contents of the book and some brief comments about the book.

This book is the culmination of Dr. Joel Dvoskin‘s American Psychology-Law Society’s Presidential Initiative. When Dr. Dvoskin served as the President of AP-LS, he envisioned bringing together top social scientists to discuss the issue of violent offending and how social science could be used in an attempt to reduce violence. He invited top researchers in their respective areas to come together for a conference targeted at this very issue. Out of this conference grew this volume.

Using Social Science to Reduce Violent Offending

Over the past three decades, the American criminal justice system has become unapologetically punitive. High rates of incarceration and frequent use of long-term segregation have become commonplace, with little concern for evidence that such practices make the public safer – and as the editors of this groundbreaking volume assert, they do not.

Bringing together experts in the fields of social science, forensic psychology and criminal justice, Using Social Science to Reduce Violent Offending addresses what truly works in reducing violent offending. Promoting an approach to correctional policy grounded in an evidence-based and nuanced understanding of human behavior, leading authorities from the United States, Canada, and Great Britain offer specific and practical strategies for improving the criminal and juvenile justice systems. Beginning by covering the history and scope of violent crime and incarceration in the U.S., this pioneering volume offers clear and practical recommendations for implementing approaches focused on behavioral change of even the most particular offender groups, such as juvenile offenders, sexual offenders, and offenders with mental illnesses. The authors argue for a more scientifically informed justice system, one where offenders-through correctional approaches such as community-based treatments and cognitive behavioral interventions-can be expected to learn the skills they will need to succeed in avoiding crime upon release. Authors also highlight methods for overcoming system inertia in order to implement these recommendations. Drawing on the science of human behavior to inform correctional practice, this book is an invaluable resource for policymakers, practitioners, mental health and criminal justice professionals, and anyone interested in the science behind the policies surrounding criminal punishment.

About the Authors

Joel A. Dvoskin, Ph.D., ABPP

Joel A. Dvoskin, PhD, ABPP is Clinical Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Arizona, Tucson and Past President of the American Psychology-Law Society. Dr. Dvoskin is a clinical psychologist, licensed in the State of Arizona since 1981 and the State of New Mexico since 2005. He is a Diplomate in Forensic Psychology of the American Board of Professional Psychology, a Fellow of the American Psychological Association (APA) and the American Psychology-Law Society. Dr. Dvoskin is Past President of Division 18 of the American Psychological Association, Psychologists in Public Service (2000-2001), and Past President of Division 41 of the American Psychological Association, the American Psychology-Law Society.

Jennifer L. Skeem, Ph.D.

Jennifer L. Skeem, PhD is Professor of Psychology and Social Behavior, University of California, Irvine. Dr. Skeem is a member of the MacArthur Research Network on Mandated Community Treatment, and Centers for Psychology and Law and Evidence-Based Corrections. She trained in clinical psychology at the Universities of Utah and Pittsburgh. Dr. Skeem’s research is designed to inform clinical and legal decision-making about individuals with mental disorder. Specific topics include understanding psychopathic personality disorder, assessing and treating violence risk, and identifying factors that influence the outcomes of offenders who are required to accept psychiatric treatment. She has published over 70 articles, chapters, and books. To help research inform policy and practice, she works closely with national and local agencies (e.g., Council of State Governments; California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation). Dr. Skeem has received several awards, including the Saleem Shah Award for Early Career Excellence from the American Psychological Association (Division 41) and the Distinguished Assistant Professor Award for Research from the Academic Senate of UCIrvine.

Raymond W. Novaco, Ph.D.

Raymond W. Novaco, PhD is Professor of Psychology and Social Behavior, University of California, Irvine. Dr. Novaco’s research is dedicated to the study of anger and violent behavior, especially with regard to their therapeutic regulation. The focus of his current projects is on the assessment and treatment of seriously disordered persons having histories of violence. This research is being conducted at both the clinical and epidemiological level, involving studies at forensic facilities. The general objective is to further refine and elaborate cognitive-behavioral intervention for anger dysregulation and to better understand its context-based implementation. As well, attention is being given to the interrelationship of anger with clinical disorders, such as psychosis, PTSD, and intellectual disabilities. The connection between anger and trauma is being examined in research on war veterans (Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan) and on people in long-term care institutions who have traumatic life histories.

Kevin S. Douglas, Ph.D., LL.B.

Kevin S. Douglas, PhD, LLB is Associate Professor of Psychology, Simon Fraser University. Dr. Douglas is an Associate Professor in the Department of Psychology at Simon Fraser University. Prior to starting this position in 2004, he was on faculty for three years at the University of South Florida (Department of Mental Health, Law, & Policy). He graduated with a law degree (LL.B.) from the University of British Columbia Faculty of Law in 2000, and obtained his Ph.D. in clinical (forensic) psychology from Simon Fraser University in 2002. His research interests involve the application of psychological science and theory to legal and criminal justice phenomena, such as crime and violence. More specifically, current areas of focus include violence risk assessment and management, risk reduction in mental health, dynamic (time-variant) risk factors (their trajectories and role in violent behavior), mental disorder and violence, decision-making about risk for violence, and psychopathic personality (its role in criminal behavior; its nature; its measurement). More legally-oriented projects include the judicial use and understanding of the concept and measurement of psychopathy within legal case law, and the law’s conceptualization of the risk. In 2005, Dr. Douglas received a five-year Career Scholar Award from the Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research, and in 2006, he received the Saleem Shah Award for Early Career Excellence in Psychology and Law from the American Academy of Forensic Psychology and the American Psychology-Law Society.

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