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Forensic and Corrections SIG

Forensic and Corrections SIG

Affiliated 2015

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Contact Information

Amie Zarling, Ph.D.
Research/University Faculty
Iowa State University
Ames, Iowa, USA 

SIG Mission/Objectives

The Forensic and Corrections SIG is a professional workgroup dedicated to using Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) as the core therapeutic approach to treating behavioral health problems in forensic and corrections settings. The mission of the group is to (a) generate knowledge of effective care, treatment, and services in the context of forensic and corrections settings and individuals’ characteristics, culture, and preferences; (b) apply knowledge to provide quality care, treatment, and services to help individuals achieve values-based outcomes in a supportive environment; (c) integrate knowledge of complementary care, treatment, and services to promote whole-person recovery, wellness, and growth; (d) translate knowledge into professional practices and ACT programs responsive to the needs of individuals; and (e) communicate knowledge through educational programs that provide understanding of ACT, develop and prepare human service providers to deliver ACT-informed care, treatment, or services in forensic and corrections settings.

General interest area to be specifically addressed by this SIG:

The International Centre for Prison Studies (ICPS) estimates more than 10.2 million people worldwide are currently incarcerated as pre-trial detainees/remand prisoners, or sentenced prisoners. This staggering number is even more poignant when you consider half of the world’s prisoners are in the United States (2.24 million), China (1.64 million), and Russia (0.68 million). If the number of pre-trial/ “administrative” detainees in China and North Korea were included, world total would exceed 11 million (2013).

In spite of the staggering number of incarcerates and the escalating costs to governments worldwide, the issue of treating mental illness in forensic and correctional settings becomes a solemn focal point. When you consider the prevalence of psychiatric disorders inherent in this population (e.g., psychosis, depression, personality disorders, and substance abuse) and increased suicide rates (Fazel & Seewald, 2010), the need to address mental illness in these settings becomes a global concern for the mental health community.

The belief that “nothing works” in treating incarcerates (Martinson, 1974) has permeated many correctional and forensics staff who feel any change efforts are pointless based on a client’s deeply rooted cognitive distortions and maladaptive coping strategies shaping criminal behavior. Consequently, incarcerates with mental illness are often under-served and the stigmatization of those with mental illness has continued costs.

Evidence is mounting that Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) represents an intervention that is well suited to address the wide variety of mental health needs of individuals in forensic and correctional settings (Villagrá Lanza, P. & González Menéndez, A., 2013; Villagrá Lanza, P. et al., 2014; Brillhart, 2010).

Description of SIG membership 

This SIG will target the membership of individuals working in forensic settings such as jails, hospitals (and other forms of civil commitment), prisons, and community corrections. In addition, it will include public safety professionals (e.g., police officers, service members, veterans, firefighters, EMTs, correctional officers, paramedics, etc.). Those ACBS members simply interested in the areas above and want to learn more will be welcomed to join, as well.

SIG Activities

To begin with, a listserv will be created in order to carry-out the mission statement described above. The listerv will foster communication across individuals that share a common interest which will generate support and the dissemination of practices.  The SIG also has a SIG Resources webpage.

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