Saturday, October 28, 2006

What I Learned: Part 1


For the past week I've been attending my annual professional conference. Lest anyone think I've been lounging around the pool, touring the city or just hanging out instead of seriously learning anything, I've decided to post a random sampling of unrelated things I've learned at this conference. I think it's a good representation of the range of topics that get presented every year. This is the first of a three part series of posts entitled "What I Learned". Again, these items are presented completely at random and have no relation to one another.

Here goes:

  • Robert Simon gave a great keynote speech entitled "Authorship in Forensic Psychiatry". Now, some people are born writers (like my co-blogger Dinah) and some are not. Dr. Simon is a born writer who will probably be buried with a pen or two in his front pocket and he will continue publishing from the grave. I am not a born writer so I appreciated the advice he offered: don't even look at a piece of paper until you have a paragraph or two already written in your head. If you run into a blank patch, keep writing because you can always edit it later. Set a consistent time for writing in a quiet space with no distractions. There were many more relevant bits but I'm trying to keep this brief. I spoke with him afterward and mentioned Shrink Rap, and he asked me what a "blog" was. I tried to explain (poorly) and ended up sending him a link to Shrink Rap instead.
  • People are more willing to talk about the accuracy of criminal profiling rather than the ethics of doing profiles.
  • People who are fascinated by serial killers and who want to hear about them have probably never met one.
  • The BTK serial killer once worked for the ADT home security company.
  • Under Sharia law women are not allowed to speak in court. Certain serious religious offenses, called hadd offenses, are punished through stoning or amputation. These offenses include rape, theft and robbery, fornication and adultery. In some countries the amputations are carried out by physicians. Under Sharia women are not allowed to speak in court or testify. I heard a talk by a female human rights lawyer from Nigeria that was fascinating; the audience was completely silent while she described the lengths she had to go to to avoid assassination travelling to and from court.
  • One California judge stated that he is bound to the same level of confidentiality as any other mental health professional involved in his mental health court program. They stopped questions before I could ask him how he preserved confidentiality while discussing a defendant's mental health problems in open court.
  • Mental health courts decrease frequency and length of incarceration, increase compliance with mental health care and improve the quality of life of the defendant. Of the 200 defendants involved in one mental health court program, only 2 became employed as a result of their involvement. The goal of mental health court most realistically appears to be to minimize the cost to society rather than helping the defendant achieve employment. This is probably an indication of the severity of the illnesses suffered by these defendants.
  • The majority of psychiatrists sanctioned by physician boards are male (90%) and sanctions are agreed upon without an administrative hearing. They are typically guilty of sexual boundary violations and are given multiple sanctions including license suspension, probation, and requirements for counselling and supervision.
  • In 2004 less than 2% of violent sexual offenses reported in the Uniform Crime Reports were committed by women.

That's the end of Part 1. It's been a great conference so far.

And yes, I have toured the city a bit and will be lounging around with friends tonight.