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Psychological assessment in the forensic field: early release in the Uruguayan context. Uruguay, bonillan vera. Natalia Bonilla Armada. Ministerio del Interior, Montevideo, Uruguay. Agraciada , Montevideo. Forensic psychological expert examination is defined as an instrument to provide advice to the judicial authority, through an opinion based on a thorough assessment in a specific area and with a particular aim Ching, Although it is important to underscore that expert reports are not binding for judges, they are still a highly relevant auxiliary element for them Tejero, For the purpose of having certain procedure parameters during expert assessments, there is a Manual prepared by expert psychologists of the Medical-Criminological department of the Technical-Forensic Institute of the Uruguayan Judicial Branch hereinafter, the I.

In the Uruguayan context, expert psychologists provide advice to criminal justice administration in the different stages of the process, from initial stages for the verification of criminal facts, until the resolution for the possible granting of an early release. Although the semi-structured expert interview is the main and mostly used instrument during the assessment process, professionals need to have other tools to reduce the impact of the subjective variable, trying to reach objective conclusions for the resolution of assessments.

The National Institute of Criminology hereinafter, I. The National Center of Criminological Opinions is in charge, among other things, of conducting assessments of individuals deprived of their liberty applying for an early release, in accordance with Art.

This was only a non-binding psychological opinion; the actual granting or denial of early release was the competence of the Supreme Court of Justice hereinafter, S. Before the recent reform, the C. It may only be denied on reasonable grounds, in cases where the person does not show evident signs of rehabilitation. In any case, the mandatory report carried out by I. However, the C. It is considered that: if the sentence relapses out of prison, you may request it at any time; if the sentence was a penitentiary, it may be requested it having served half of the sentence; in the event that the penalty of penitentiary has been added to eliminative security measures, it may be requested after it has reached two thirds of the penalty.

This modification of the Law supplants the expertise for the technical report referring to the re-socialization skills of the prisoner, leaving aside the exclusive competence of the I.

Subsequently, the judge of Enforcement and Surveillance will decide before the Public Prosecutor's Office, disposing of: the report of prison conduct and the technical reports that are available referring to the re-socialization skills of the prisoner; the reassessment of the penalty for work and study, and the updated criminal record.

In this way we seek to modify a procedure that until now seemed to be very extensive since not only the expert assessment carried out by the I. Certain individual psychological characteristics personality traits and psycho-social skills are considered as risk factors that have an impact on violent behavior, predisposing the individual to anti-social behaviors. When these behaviors are combined with certain social factors, they give rise to serious or extreme violent behavioral expressions.

The creation of multiple violent behavior risk assessment guides during the past decades and the increasing adaptation thereof at an international level are evidence of the changes that have been taking place in assessment systems. Research at an international level shows concern for the systematization of violence risk assessment and, as a consequence, for the planning and monitoring of interventions aimed at preventing recidivism in this kind of behavior Ochoa-Balarezo et al.

The use of risk assessment instruments has become a usual procedure for psychologists in the United Kingdom, Australia, United States and Denmark; however, there is a greater trend towards actuarial tools, rather than to structured clinical judgment tools Singh et al. There is a vast body of research on such instruments which reflects the importance of including them in new procedures Viljoen et al.

This paper is aimed at bringing us closer to the situation of forensic psychological expert assessment in individuals who applied for the benefit of early release, based on a documentary review of national records.

This documentary review collected information from records of the data base of I. The following data were inquired:. Number of individuals assessed by experts per year.

Once these data were obtained, resolutions by the S. Based on the documentary study carried out on the records of people who were psychologically assessed in the face of the request for early release within the framework of the criminal process in Uruguay, the results that arise from the review of the records included in the records control system are presented together with the assessments carried out by the I.

CRI, like the resolutions that the SCJ takes in the same periods Judicial Power, regarding the granting of anticipated freedoms between the years and Figure 1 shows the totality of annualized assessments with favorable recommendation positive reports and unfavorable negative reports to obtain the benefit by I.

In relation to the resolutions of the S. In year , technicians recommended granting early release applications, while they recommended denying such benefit in cases. In the same year, the S. In year , there were positive recommendations and negative recommendations. The S. In year , there were favorable recommendations and unfavorable recommendations. Between and , there were more positive recommendations regarding access to the benefit of early release than negative recommendations.

However, the situation changed in , when there were negative reports and positive reports. In this year, the S. Finally, in year , the S. The study was aimed at describing the characteristics and procedures inherent to the role of psychologists as court advisors in early release applications in Uruguay, through a theoretical review of the issue and the presentation of figures referring to expert assessments conducted between and , which problematize the need to review professional practices in accordance to what international publications recommend in terms of forensic-psychological expert assessments.

The main aim was to show, for the first time, information relative to the Uruguayan general situation as for psychological expert assessments for early release applications. With regard to preliminary findings of this documentary review, the analysis of expert assessments carried out reflects a need to computerize reports with higher quality; results show a decrease in the number of expert assessments and resolutions which responds to - among other things - a need for more human resources, as well as to the lack of guides to direct professional practices.

It was also found that, except for a few exceptional cases, the only technique used was interviews. The documentary review showed a lack of criteria for the unification of concepts such as rehabilitation, progressivity, re-socialization process or vulnerability to crime. In addition, we observed minimum use of specific assessment tools of the forensic field taking into account the specific characteristics of the population assessed.

Results also reflect the difficulties faced daily by technicians when they assess a discharge plan as a risk factor and as a protective factor when individuals assessed lack social networks or any chances to enter the labor market in a stable and formal manner after they leave prison. More importantly, the thoroughness required to show a possible relation between a personality structure and a criminological prognosis.

From February to December , the S. The number of assessments made does not correspond with the number of resolutions issued by the S. Since this is a resolution that implies access by subjects to their freedom of movement before serving their full sentence, taking into account the different repercussions of this mainly regarding more violent crimes , and that in most cases except in S.

Taking into consideration the complexity of the role of experts, the lack of local bibliographical sources and consultation with qualified informants, it becomes clear that I.

The creation of professional practice guides, the implementation of forensic assessment tools adapted to our population, which allow professionals to unify assessment criteria and optimize results obtained, a better systematization of data and the promotion of research in this field, are necessary adjustments to continue developing this area.

One of the main reviews to current practices that is worth pointing out is the urgency to understand that the role of experts, as indicated by the concept itself, indicates a specialty in a specific area and this forces professionals in this role to have specific training addressing particular aspects of the field.

Nevertheless, it is worth emphasizing that it is important for technicians to know tools and to be able to select the adequate tool for each case, paying special attention to the predictive effectiveness thereof, but also to the accuracy required to define what will be assessed, for what purpose and how.

American Psychological Association Specialty Guidelines for Forensic Psychology. American Psychologist. DOI: Psicothema , 22 , Departamento de personalidad.

Andrews, D. Andrews, J. The psychology of criminal conduct 3rd. Cincinnati: Anderson Pub. Arbach, K. Revista de Facultad de Medicina , 63 3 , Boer, D. Manual for the Sexual Violence Risk Borum, R. Ching, R. Douglas, K. International Journal of Clinic and Health Psychology , 11 1 , Fazel, S. Use of risk assessment instruments to predict violence and antisocial behaviour in 73 samples involving people. Systematic review and meta-analysis.

British Medical Journal , 24 Documento de trabajo interinstitucional. Santiago de Chile. Folino, J. MedUnab , 7 20 , Gacono, C. Hanson, R. Static Improving actuarial risk assessments for sex offenders. User Report Ottawa: Department of the Solicitor General of Canada. Hare, R. Toronto: Multi-Health Systems, Inc. Harris, G. Violent recidivism of mentally disorders offenders: the development of a statistical prediction instrument. Criminal Justice and Behaviour , 20, Instituto de Medicina Legal y Ciencias Forenses Poder Judicial del Uruguay.

Kropp, P.

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Act No. Amends the Act No. Repeals the Act No. Amends the Criminal Code No. Act amending various Acts No.

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