Monitor on Psychology - September 2011 - (Page 10)

Upfront Supreme Court hears psychologists on prison, video game cases The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled on two cases in which psychologists provided testimony. In one, the court ordered the state of California to release 46,000 prisoners to relieve overcrowding that makes providing constitutionally mandated physical and mental health care for prisoners impossible. In the other, the court sided with First Amendment-rights proponents in ruling that fining shops for selling violent video games to minors is unconstitutional. On May 23, in Brown v. Plata, the court ruled 5-4 to uphold an earlier ruling that California reduce its prison population in order to be able to provide its prisoners with adequate medical and mental health care. APA and several other mental health organizations, including the American Psychiatric Association and California Psychological Association, submitted an amicus brief supporting the relief of prison overcrowding. The brief argued that overcrowding seriously obstructs mental health workers’ ability to provide adequate care for mentally ill prisoners and that overcrowding may exacerbate existing mental illnesses or even induce mental illness in susceptible people. In the majority opinion, the justices cited the testimony of Craig Haney, PhD, a social psychologist at the University of California, Santa Cruz, who toured several California prisons to assess overcrowding and staffing. Haney testified that prison mental health workers are too overburdened to provide adequate care to inmates, which not only harms prisoners but also endangers the public once those prisoners are released. “When prisons are unduly painful, they become harmful and the system begins to break down and fail,” the court considered testimony on both sides of the video game case. Haney says. “Prisoners can carry the consequences of that harm back out into the free world once they’re International University psychologist Chris Ferguson, PhD, released. I was very gratified to see the Supreme Court countered that the research thus far is inconclusive and that embrace that concept.” previous studies suffer from methodological flaws. (For a full On June 27, in Brown v. Entertainment Merchants report on the debate, see “Virtual Violence” in the December Association, the court ruled 7-2 to reverse a 2005 California Monitor, law that fined stores $1,000 for selling violent video games APA declined to submit an amicus brief due to the lack to minors, arguing that doing so violated storeowners’ First of scientific consensus on the effects of video game violence, Amendment rights. Psychologists weighed in on both sides of though it did pass a resolution in 2005 expressing concern over the argument. Some, such as Iowa State University psychologist the potential link between violent video games and violent Craig Anderson, PhD, argued that violent video games increase behavior and encouraging increased media literacy for children aggressive thoughts and behaviors, especially in young boys, so they can better understand virtual violence in context. and therefore are a serious enough health hazard to overrule video games’ status as free speech. Others, such as Texas A&M —M. PRiCE 10 Monitor on psychology • septeMber 2011

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Monitor on Psychology - September 2011

Monitor on Psychology - September 2011
President’s Column
From the CEO
Supreme Court hears psychologists on prison and video game cases
Antipsychotics are overprescribed in nursing homes
New MCAT likely to recognize the mind-body connection
A $2 million boost for military and families
In Brief
On Your Behalf
Judicial Notebook
Random Sample
Speaking of Education
An uncertain future for American workers
Advocating for psychotherapy
Seared in our memories
Helping kids cope in an uncertain world
APA and Nickelodeon team up
Muslims in America, post 9/11
Bin Laden’s death
‘They expect us to be there’
Answering the call of public policy
Candidates answer final questions
APA News
Division Spotlight
New leaders
Disaster relief training
Honoring teaching excellence

Monitor on Psychology - September 2011