The scientific study of crime and criminals is highly intertwined with psychology, so it shouldn’t be surprising that there are numerous types of psychology jobs in criminal justice including careers in counseling, case management and probation. These unique fields focus on rehabilitation-centered correction methods rather than an incapacitation or “lock and key” punishment-based methods. Psychology plays an important role in distinguishing between the individuals that can reintegrate with society and those who are unwilling or incapable of successful rehabilitation.
Correctional counseling is designed to both reduce recidivism rates and assist offenders in overcoming relationship problems that lead to antisocial tendencies. According to Jones and Bartlett Learning, the main premise of correctional counseling is the notion that offenders “need…new cognitive abilities to understand and handle conflicts and dysfunctions in interpersonal, employment, education, mental health and other areas that keep them from functioning more effectively in the present environment.” Psychology is crucial in this field of sociology because prevailing theories are based on the idea that crime and antisocial behaviors are simply symptoms of dysfunctions within an individual. Healing the dysfunctional world-view of an offender will change the behaviors of the person. Understanding the person’s cognitions is critical in producing successful interventions.
Another popular career field that combines psychology and criminal justice is case management. Case management involves helping offenders successfully reintegrate into society by identifying the individual’s needs, engaging them in the treatment process, developing a step-by-step plan, connecting the offender with helpful services and monitoring their success. Case managers often need to adjust treatment plans, implement sanctions and fight for the offender’s needs when required. This critical criminal justice field utilizes various social service agencies, mental health programs and addiction treatment facilities to ensure successful reintegration. Careers in case management utilize the “unique opportunity [which] exists to intervene in the offender’s lifestyle to reduce criminal behavior,” while simultaneously reducing supervision costs, according to the National Institute of Justice.
One of the most well-known psychology-based jobs available in the field of criminology is the position of probation officer. Like case managers, probation officers are the offender’s advocate and help ensure the offender is successfully managing his home-life, social obligations and work-life. This job position requires the officer to conduct face-to-face meetings with offenders, coordinate arrangements for counseling or meetings, regularly confirm class attendance, conduct state mandated drug tests and maintain detailed records of each individual’s progress. At times, officers need to physically visit an offender’s workplace for verification purposes and even testify in court regarding the client’s status and behavior. A strong foundation in psychology helps probation officers discern when an offender is starting to slip back into an unhealthy or dangerous lifestyle and when someone is sincerely attempting to improve.
Related Resource: What is a Youth Correctional Counselor?
Some of the career options that intersect psychology and criminology center around counseling, case management and probation. These unique and strong individuals face an uphill battle as many critics argue that the “rehabilitation method has failed,” but the success of these career fields show the importance of rehabilitation-centered programs. Other types of psychology jobs in criminal justice include detective work, investigative profiling, forensic psychology and juvenile justice work.