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  • International Association for Correctional and Forensic Psychology
    International Association for Correctional and Forensic Psychology Promoting the development of psychological practice in criminal justice and law enforcement settings since 1954.
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  • International Association for Correctional and Forensic Psychology
    International Association for Correctional and Forensic Psychology Interested in joining the Association? Click on the membership tab to view our member benefits.

Preamble to Revised Standards

Since the 1980 publication of the original IACFP Standards for Psychology Services in Adult Jails and Prisons, our national inmate population has almost quadrupled, from 328,695 in 1980 to 1,298,003 at the end of 1998 (Proband, 1998). In 1996 alone, 2.85 million juveniles were arrested (National Center for Juvenile Justice, San Francisco, 1997). It has been reported that the average daily population for both jails and prisons has been increasing at an average of over nine and eight percent respectively since 1983 and much higher in certain states. As a result, facilities that used to house 50 offenders may now house hundreds. Those that used to contain hundreds may now house thousands. Incarcerated offender estimates by the year 2000 have ranged from two to four million, based on the outcomes of incarceration for a wider range of crimes, longer sentences, truth in sentencing, and modifications of our federal, state and county penal systems in the face of increasing overcrowding.

Similarly, the number of offenders on parole or probation also has dramatically increased. It has been reported that at the end of 1997, nearly four million individuals were under correctional supervision in the United States, compared with one and one quarter million in 1985. This number represents a 30 percent increase just from 1990 (Bureau of Justice Statistics, 1997).

Continuing deinstitutionalization of the mentally ill, combined with increasing incarceration/ supervision rates, may be contributing to the growing number of incarcerated mentally ill and developmentally disabled adult and juvenile offenders, many of whom are released back into our communities on probation and parole still needing mental health services. Percentage estimates of mentally ill and developmentally disabled inmate populations have ranged from six percent to well over 65 percent depending on the study and the facility. Percentages of inmates needing mental health or related specialized services are much higher if drug disorders are included and higher still if a dual diagnosis criterion is used. Additionally, research continues to show that the need for mental health services may be intensified by iatrogenic psychological stresses induced by incarceration and overcrowding, stresses that may result in severe depression, psychosis and even suicidal behavior among offenders who may not have had a diagnosable emotional disturbance prior to, or upon, admission.

In contrast to the increased percentages of incarcerated mentally ill and developmentally disabled, since the late 1970s there has been a decrease in social, political, and economic support for rehabilitation, and mental health services and programs for offenders, especially incarcerated offenders. Nevertheless, in 1978, the U.S. Department of Justice promulgated guidelines for mental health services in prison with its Overview of Psychology Services—A Training Orientation and Reference Handbook. Separate state and federal litigation has led to legal decisions that, based on the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution, have clarified the rights of inmates to receive professional mental health services, as well as the minimal parameters of those services (e.g., Estelle v. Gamble, 1976; Bowring v. Godwin, 1977; Ruiz v. Estelle, 1980; Langley v. Coughlin, 1989; Farmer v. Brennan, 1994; Madrid v. Gomez, 1995; Coleman v. Wilson, 1995; the Youngberg case, 1982 [see Cohen, 1998]; and Americans with Disabilities Act, 1997). At this time, there is no doubt that correctional systems and facilities have been legally mandated to provide humane living environments in their prisons and jails that include (a) providing for the mental health needs of their inmate populations, and (b) ensuring that these mental health services meet certain legally and professionally defined standards.

As a partial result of this litigation, there has been a significant increase in the number of correctional psychologists over the past decade—in both the public and private sectors—as correctional organizations, facilities, and agencies have been legally mandated to comply with both constitutional and humane mental health care standards. In the face of this professional growth, ethical and practice standards are critical to corrections administrators and psychology staff for the provision of psychological services to offenders, in sufficient quality and quantity so that compliance with federal, state, and professional mandates is achieved and maintained.

In our revision of the original 1980 standards, we acknowledge that not all persons in our criminal justice system have some type of developmental disability, emotional disturbance or mental illness requiring specialized or intensive psychological services. We also recognize that, as in the original 1980 IACFP standards, the 1 S999 revision provides the minimum acceptable levels for psychological services for offenders—regardless of the category of client (i.e., adult or juvenile, male, female), jurisdiction (county, state, federal) or location (jails, prisons, community). Nonetheless, we have made every effort to reflect the applicable ethical/practice parameters and standards supported by legal decisions, as well as those of the American Psychological Association, the American Psychiatric Association, the American Correctional Association (1990), and the National Commission on Correctional Health Care. Our full expectation is that the psychologist practitioner/supervisor will advocate for and provide mental health services in compliance with these professional guidelines regardless of their client or work setting.

The guiding purpose of these revised IACFP standards is to augment the APA ethical and practice standards and apply these concepts in the corrections arena. The intent continues to be the improvement of advocacy, accessibility, integrity, quality, and measured effectiveness of mental health care for all offenders—adult or juvenile—who require or may benefit from it. To that end, we intend that the scope of the standards includes juvenile offenders and community correctional agencies providing mental health services to offenders on probation/parole. We reordered some of the original sections and paragraphs, and separated or created sections. Consequently, there are now 66 standards in contrast to the original 57. We also eliminated the general to essential continuum. In our collective judgments, all the guidelines were viewed as essential. As in the original 1980 standards, each section is followed by a brief discussion. The purpose of such discussion is only to clarify the standard's intent. Consequently, the discussion section should not be viewed as part of the standard nor required for compliance.

We understand that the promulgation of IACFP standards does not guarantee compliance. Since these standards are not intended to offer legal advice or substitute for legal consultation, compliance does not guarantee protection from, or successful outcome of, litigation. Nonetheless, a psychological practice or service in a correctional context not in compliance with these standards strongly implies an ethical or practice violation. Such a violation could result in litigation with civil and/or criminal consequences. Therefore, IACFP strongly encourages the highest possible level of compliance with our standards as well as performance exceeding the standards whenever possible.

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