Forensic Psychology and Correctional Psychology: Distinct but Related Subfields of Psychological Science and Practice
This paper delineates two separate but related subfields of psychological science and practice applicable across all major areas of the field (e.g., clinical, counseling, developmental, social, cognitive, community). Forensic and correctional psychology are related by their historical roots, involvement in the justice system, and the shared population of people they study and serve. The practical and ethical contexts of these subfields is distinct from other areas of psychology – and from one another – with important implications for ecologically valid research and ethically sound practice. Forensic psychology is a subfield of psychology in which basic and applied psychological science or scientifically-oriented professional practice is applied to the law to help resolve legal, contractual, or administrative matters. Correctional psychology is a subfield of psychology in which basic and applied psychological science or scientifically-oriented professional practice is applied to the justice system to inform the classification, treatment, and management of offenders to reduce risk and improve public safety. There has been and continues to be great interest in both subfields – especially the potential for forensic and correctional psychological science to help resolve practical issues and questions in legal and justice settings. This paper traces the shared and separate developmental histories of these subfields, outlines their important distinctions and implications, and provides a common understanding and shared language for psychologists interested in applying their knowledge in forensic or correctional contexts.