Informed consent in probation and parole settings

Date02 November 2015
Published date02 November 2015
AuthorKevin Yeates
Subject MatterHealth & social care,Criminology & forensic psychology,Criminal psychology
Informed consent in probation and
parole settings
Kevin Yeates
Kevin Yeates is based at the
Department of Psychological
and Quantitative Foundations,
University of Iowa, Iowa City,
Iowa, USA.
Purpose The purpose of this paper is to explore the complex factors associated with informed consent in
probation and parole settings.
Design/methodology/approach The author conducted a literature review exploring informed consent in
correctional settings. To identify articles for review, the author searched electronic peer-reviewed literature
databases for articles on: informed consent, corrections, probation, parole, voluntariness, and coercion.
Findings There is evidence in the literature to suggest that the informed consent process is significantly
more complicated within correctional settings than in civilian contexts. The use of implicit and explicit coercion
and determining an offenders voluntariness status may be a problematic prospect unique to the setting.
This manuscript makes recommendations to ensure informed consent is truly obtained and to safeguard
client welfare.
Originality/value There is a paucity of literature on providing mental health services in probation and parole
settings. Furthermore, this paper is unique in discussing factors associated with the informed consent
process in that context.
Keywords Corrections, Consent, Informed, Parole, Probation, Voluntariness
Paper type Literature review
At the end of 2012, approximately 6,937,600 offenders were in the USA adult correctional
system (Glaze and Herberman, 2013). The sizable population of offenders under correctional
supervision within the Department of Corrections presents a significant number of mental
health-related issues; it has been estimated that the prevalence rate for mental health and
substance use disorders is more than three times higher in the offender population when
compared to the general population in the USA (Skeem et al., 2006). This elicits unique
challenges as the paradigm for offender rehabilitation has shifted toward a more integrated and
multi-faceted approach incorporating the identification and treatment of mental health issues
among offenders (Skeem et al., 2011).
Providing mental health services within correctional settings brings with it a unique set of ethical
implications. The role of the psychologist and determining the actual client, to whom the
psychologist is providing services, can often become obfuscated. This blurring of lines is
especially salient when working with clients on probation and parole status. One of the primary
questions in these settings is whether the client is the individual sitting in front of the provider,
whether the client is the correctional system, whether it is society at large, or a nebulous
combination of all three. Because of the unclear nature of the role of the psychologist and client
services, ethical concerns regarding informed consent can emerge. Determining if an individual
client is officially mandated, voluntarily seeking services of their own volition, or unofficially
coerced to seek treatment becomes a very difficult task for the psychologist to parse out.
Despite the specific and complex ethical issues in providing services in these settings, there
appears to be a significant gap in the literature regarding informed consent. There is a paucity of
Received 12 December 2014
Revised 15 February 2015
Accepted 16 February 2015
DOI 10.1108/JCP-12-2014-0018 VOL. 5 NO. 4 2015, pp. 279-286, © Emerald Group Publishing Limited, ISSN 2009-3829
PAG E 27 9

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