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Violence & The Psychological Evaluation

Is your incarcerated loved one pending a BPH psychological evaluation?

In addition to the myriad questions that will be posed to the prisoner, the psychologist will ask many others to gauge the prisoner’s understanding and insight into expectations upon release.

Many prisoners have spent so much time preparing for this evaluation that they are caught off guard by questions about future potential challenges. It’s not as though the prisoner is unable to adequately answer such questions if given some time to ponder them. However, there will be a sense of being rushed and a compulsion to say the "right thing" that often causes the prisoner to over-think things—or not think enough.

The questions are geared toward eliciting information from the prisoner to identify what degree of consideration has been given to real world issues upon release. Some of the questions will be a variation of these:


Some prisoners have ignorantly responded that they wouldn’t be violent because it’s connected to anger and they don’t get angry. This is a problem because everyone gets angry at some point. There are no do-overs in the evaluation (except after 3 years). The psychologist will not tell the prisoner that they have failed here. Instead, the prisoner will read about it in the Comprehensive Risk Assessment report indicating something to the effect that the prisoner’s lack of insight is worrisome.

As convicted felons, and often times murderers, California Lifers preparing for a board hearing have an aversion to discussing their potential risk of violence always presuming the negative connotation. A cursory review of a collegiate dictionary will yield a wealth of wisdom. For instance, the word Violent (adj.) is defined: a) marked by the use of usually harmful or destructive physical force; b) extremely powerful or forceful and capable of causing damage.

One recent report detailed the heroic story of a hapless patron at the International House of Pancakes in Nashville, TN. As he was waiting in line to make his order, a rifle-wielding man entered the establishment intending to commit a robbery. As he waved the weapon around in the air pointing it at the employees, the man waiting in line saw his opportunity and went for it. He tackled the gunman and forced him to the ground until the police arrived.

He was no doubt a hero who likely saved many lives that day. His heroic act of tackling the would-be robber was one of VIOLENCE. He forcefully overpowered the assailant and subdued him. So, in this case violence was good. Even a convicted murderer on parole could be compelled to commit a similar act of violence that would be deemed acceptable.

The prisoner should ask him/herself what hypothetical circumstances might arise to prompt them to become violent. Perhaps if s/he were out on a date with their spouse and were accosted by a mugger they might act to protect him/her. Maybe the prisoner/parolee would intervene at witnessing a child being harmed or kidnaped. These are normal responses that a law-abiding citizen would have.

As an exercise, your loved one should be able to identify at least three situations in which they could potentially become "violent" for a good reason.

Help them to be prepared for success!

--Excerpt from PSYCHOLOGICAL EVALUATION: Inside the Comprehensive Risk Assessment by Nick Woodall

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