On Your Behalf
• APA has filed an amicus brief asserting that voluntary confessions should not bar DNA testing for crimes because psychological factors often contribute to these confessions. APA filed a friend-of-the-court brief in a case involving a suspect who confessed to raping, robbing and murdering a woman. APA cited a large body of scientific research that describes how and why some criminal defendants admit to crimes they did not commit.
"A confession that may be considered 'voluntary,' and therefore admissible into evidence, does not conclusively establish actual guilt," APA wrote. "Psychologists have conducted extensive studies as to the reasons why criminal defendants sometimes confess falsely despite their actual innocence."
Reasons for false confessions include the desire to protect a third party, feelings of guilt or involvement, and such police tactics as sleep deprivation or presentation of false evidence. Full text of the brief is available from the APA Public Affairs Office and at www.apa.org/about/offices/ogc/amicus/wright.pdf.
• APA has been working with President Barack Obama's transition team to inform the new administration about APA's priorities and recommendations on a wide range of issues related to health-care reform, mental health, substance abuse, disabilities, psychological science, and criminal and juvenile justice. (For APA's stance on health-care reform, see the "From the CEO."
Along with many other organizations, APA contributed to "Smart on Crime: Recommendations for the Next Administration and Congress," available at www.2009transition.org/criminaljustice/. In particular, APA's input emphasized the importance of prevention and early intervention in criminal and juvenile justice reform.
• The American Bar Association invited APA to write a statement and deliver remarks at the Nov. 6 event "A Call to Action for Juvenile Justice," where leading juvenile justice organizations presented their priorities for President Obama's incoming administration. APA's statement included the following recommendations: mental health and substance use screening for youth who come into contact with the juvenile justice system; greater dissemination of evidence-based practices; incorporation of strong evaluation components into juvenile justice grant programs; coordination among federal entities involved in criminal justice and mental health and substance use service delivery; and attention to the needs of young female offenders, youth with disabilities, and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth.
• As a member of the Friends of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, APA helped to prepare "Addiction Research: A National Imperative," a document for the presidential transition team. Designed as a primer, the document provides background on the etiology of addiction as a brain disease, as well as findings from prevention and treatment research that should inform future research investments. It also makes several recommendations for the next administration, including that the National Institute on Drug Abuse budget be increased by 50 percent over the next five years.
"Scientists are now poised to create breakthrough treatments that could revolutionize care and reduce associated public health and safety problems," the report says. "NIDA needs to continue these efforts." To see the full report, visit this Web page.
• Health-care professionals should not be able to refuse to provide medical information and services based on their moral or religious beliefs, according to comments APA submitted to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services on its Provider Conscience Regulation. APA urged HHS to rescind the rule on the basis that the regulation could prevent access to reproductive health care and information, particularly for low-income and minority women, and could also prevent access to care and information for other populations, specifically lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons and individuals living with HIV and AIDS. Current laws already provide conscience protections for health care providers, APA stated. Nonetheless, the rule was expected to be published at Monitor press time. President-elect Obama had signaled that he would work to rescind it.