By Sandra Olson
What's the difference between a forensic and criminal psychologist?
While criminal psychology focuses on criminal behavior, forensic psychology includes criminal and civil law, work in prisons, at-risk youth counseling, and academic research. Forensic psychology requires the assessment of a wide array of people, including victims of crime, witnesses, attorneys, and law enforcement.
“Offender profiling, also known as criminal profiling, is a behavioral and investigative tool that is intended to help investigators to accurately predict and profile the characteristics of unknown criminal subjects or offenders." (Wiki)
Criminal forensic psychologists evaluate prisoners and their behavior. They may also help assess juries, deal with terrorist negotiations, advise law enforcement officials on likely behavioral responses from criminals, determine whether a suspect is fit to stand trial and may be called on to testify in court.
A forensic psychologist is an expert in the overlapping fields of psychology and the justice system often testifying in criminal trials as an expert witness. Due to their level of expertise, forensic psychologists are called to assess future risk of the accused, provide treatment recommendations to the court, and evaluate witness credibility. They work closely with the court and provide competency and sanity evaluations for the judge. The client base of the forensic psychologist is largely criminal, exposing them to a dark and abnormal population.
Forensic psychologists evaluate criminals to learn what their mindset and motives were at the time of an offense. They gauge what threat, if any, the offender will be to the public in the future. Their presence in courtrooms is often essential. Their evaluations, assessments and testimonies help inform the decisions of judges and juries.
Because forensic psychology is interlaced with the legal field, it requires an understanding of fundamental legal principles, such as those regarding standard legal practices and standards used by legal professionals, expert witness testimony, competence and insanity definitions and evaluations to be able to communicate effectively with judges, attorneys, and other legal professionals.
A criminal forensic psychologist can be a great character in fiction novels. Several authors have developed characters in this mode:
1. Maggie O’Dell by Alex Kava
2. Sadie Bonds by Trisha Wolfe
3. Zoe Bentley by Mike Omer
4. Lincoln Rhyme by Jeffery Deaver
5. Pierce Quincy by Lisa Gardner
If you're looking for an intense reading experience, this is a great topic to investigate.