Behind the Prison Walls

William Mclver II*

Psychology Editor's Note: William Mclver, Ph.D., a former clinical psychologist in private practice in Oregon, spent eight months in prison in Oregon in 1988-1989.  His license was also then revoked by the Oregon Licensing Board.  Dr. Mclver had been active in assisting defendants charged with sexual abuse of children up to the time of his imprisonment.  We consider it fair to permit him to tell his story inasmuch as there continues to be false statements made about him in trials and in print.  We also believe his time behind the prison walls gives a rare opportunity for forensic psychologists and mental health professionals to get some impression of what prison is, and the role and conduct of mental health professionals as experienced by prisoners.  Therefore, we choose to print the following introduction and article by Dr Mclver.  The article was written by Dr. Mclver at the request of prison inmates who had come to know him during his time spent with them in prison.  It is his response to what he saw mental health professionals doing to those in prison.

Introduction

I wrote this for my pen pals in the Oregon State Penitentiary, where I was "Resident Psychologist" in 1988-1989.  Hence, the tone.

I was one of a handful of psychologists in the U.S. who testified for the defense in cases of alleged child sex abuse in 1984-87.  I claimed that most charges were contrived, judges routinely let prosecutors suborn perjury, and most (over 90% of 600-plus I've examined) personality evaluations done for the state were bogus.  Prosecutors targeted me for these views.

I consulted in over 20 day-care center and over 350 divorce or custody cases where sex abuse, satanic rituals, etc., were charged, and I audio- or videotaped interviews with over 200 children.  Many of these interviews were done in a room with a one-way mirror, with parents and prosecutors on the other side.  In all but two cases, the kids denied statements mental health workers and prosecutors claimed they made in unrecorded interviews.  Juries which heard or saw the tapes acquitted.

A typical example — an 8-year-old towhead: "No way, Jose!  Richard didn't kill the horse, poop on the floor, pour chocolate on it and make me eat it.  Those things never happened.  The fat lady with the thick glasses kept trying to make me say they did."  Like many sex-abuse "experts" who won't tape all their interviews, this lady lied about what the child said.  The Michigan day care center owner, sentenced to 50 years on the basis of this expert's testimony, was released as the result of the taped interviews of 13 children.

Prosecutors coordinated efforts to impeach me.  (They routinely do this with expert witnesses.)  The National Center for Prosecution of Child Abuse sent a "Mclver file" throughout the country.  They tracked my speaking engagements.  They even got some canceled.  Then the Oregon Attorney General, Dave Frohnmeyer, threatened to dismiss a lawyer who was a part-time hearing officer if she used me as an expert witness in a trial.

The FBI interviewed relatives of people on whose cases I'd consulted, broke into my office to steal files, and the Post Office Department opened and copied my mail.  An electronics technician found two bugging devices in my office.  They did this without subpoenas.  Oregon prosecutors also got my bank records without subpoenas and insurance company information with counterfeit subpoenas.  They threatened, and tried to bribe, several former patients to complain about me (none did).  They also gave immunity from prosecution to two secretaries, one who listed relatives for phony appointments, deposited the insurance payments in her account, and, along with an Oregon attorney, stole patient's files from my office.  Another secretary who had embezzled over $30,000 from the office was also given immunity by the prosecutors.

Then, they knocked me off the witness chair into prison on charges of tampering with evidence and a witness in a malpractice suit they helped the Oregon lawyer manufacture.  They said I had a secretary erase a name written at 5:00 P.M. in an appointment book and rewrite it at 1:00 P.M.  (That's it, the whole enchilada!)  Prosecutors relied on her word and a copy of the page in question (which couldn't show signs of an erasure not on the original.)

I didn't have the appointment book at trial.  I'd shown it to my lawyer, he saw it wasn't erased and told me to hold onto it so he wouldn't be in the evidence chain.  But at trial, we couldn't find it.  I knew prosecutors wanted my patient's files — with a search warrant they can take your underwear — and I destroyed some and hid others.  I firmly believed then, as I do now, that a therapist has an absolute ethical duty to protect the confidentiality of patients.  The appointment book was misplaced in the shuffle.

My wife found the book while I was in the pen (with over 25 fellow campers who were unhappy with me because I hadn't certified them "crazy" when I'd diagnosed them on the outside).  A document examiner said the page hadn't been tampered with.  We got a post-conviction trial on the claim prosecutors knowingly presented bogus testimony.

The state witness (who died after being deposed) admitted the alleged erasure wasn't there.  At this point, the prosecutor asked for a break.  Then her witness changed the time of the erasure.  But neither my expert, nor the state's own expert, could find signs of alteration at either time.

The prosecutor saw the page and heard her expert say he couldn't find any sign of alteration, but she claimed it was there.  The judge saw the page (he, too, couldn't see an alteration experts with scientific paraphernalia couldn't see) but said it was there anyway, and upheld the conviction.  State Appellate and Supreme Courts upheld it.  The US Supreme Court wouldn't review.

One of the top labs in the world, using sophisticated tests. and photomicrographic techniques, state it's impossible the alterations took place (no torn fibers, indentations, traces of carbon).  But, no dice.  Once you're locked in by a legal decision, that's it.

I don't mean this facetiously, but it appears that tangible proof of judicial dishonesty doesn't qualify as a violation of the constitutional right to a fair trial.

However, there's more than obvious personal concern involved here.  If a reasonably intelligent, articulate white man, lucky to have been given an education, can't trump judicial procedure with palpable, confirmable, in-your-face evidence, what about inarticulate blacks, browns, and poor whites without it?  And, believe me, these are the guys who fuel the prison industry.

Psychscam

Judges order up mental evaluations with all the ballyhoo and Noble Purpose of preachers saving souls in a cat house.  Then they hunker behind a wall of respectability while somebody gets fritzed.  They're joined at the peephole by prosecutors, caseworkers, and parole board members.  All with a stake in getting rubber stamp reports written by psychiatrists and psychologists on their "approved" list.

It's risky for an unwilling participant to squirm.  Depending on the case, it could mean loss of children, financial ruin, prison, or a release date forgotten.

The idea behind this?  That depends on who's calling the shots.  Caseworkers want to make cases, prosecutors want to win them, judges want decisions to look legitimate.  Testers want a piece of the pie and a share of the clout.  The evaluation's a ritual to confirm what the customer wants confirmed.  The person on the receiving end is a grasshopper tossed in a bass pond.

He's told to mark "T" or "F" on 556 questions, draw a house, a tree, and a person, reproduce designs he looked at five seconds, tell stories about pictures and ink blots, finish up somebody else's sentences, and answer a slew of personal questions.  That's when the evaluation lasts more than the often customary five to ten minutes.

"No, I don't," is "Denial."  "Yes, I do," is 'Admit."  (As in, "The alleged perpetrator denied he robbed the bank, but admitted he liked money.")  Sit up straight — you're "Guarded."  Ask what's going on — you re "Defensive."  Say you're not exactly wild about this business — you're "Hostile." Look at the floor — you've got "Something to hide."  Which is just a gnat's ass away from "Paranoid, and a threat to the community."

Nine out of ten of over 600 court-ordered evaluations I've read are incompetent, unethical, and dishonest.  Nothing's said about the limits of the tests and the testers, what they can and can't do, and which ones aren't worth diddly.

Typical observations and statements from reports:

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On the basis of the manner in which this person responded to the selected items on the Rorschach Ink Blot Test it is clear that he suffers from hostile-aggressive tendencies ...
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The Draw a Person Test demonstrates a deep seated Oedipal Complex with well masked resentment towards all, especially male, authority figures.  The lines were broken, indicating dissatisfaction with rules and unconscious needs to transgress boundaries, by force, if need be.  He presents as a threat to the health and welfare of the community.
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There was an intensity to his presentation which revealed compulsive tendencies and sadistic content.  Mixed Personality Disorder with Passive-Aggressive, Compulsive Anti-Social features accompanied by a pattern of passivity and sub-assertiveness which is the polar opposite of his debilitating anxiety ...
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The Bender performance suggests egocentrism and nonconformity ... it betrays good intelligence in a rather compulsive, perfectionistic individual who shows strong tension and anxiety with regard to heterosexual relationships.
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I gave him [an 18-month-old infant] the anatomically correct dolls and he threw the Daddy doll in the corner and hugged the little boy doll closely which shows that he is frightened of the father ...  In my professional opinion, the father abused him.
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Rorschach protocol revealed a latent polymorphous sexuality.

These are actual cases — written for judges and prosecutors by licensed psychiatrists and psychologists.  Tests that don't test anything, opinions that aren't based on anything, invalid measures which don't measure anything.  This is Junk science.

Unless one uses a scientific approach, he might as well be reading tea leaves.

The only reason to have a psychologist test, rather than a plumber, is because of the psychologist's training as a scientist.  Psychiatric and social work training don't emphasize test design, measurement, or statistics.

What psychologists find out from a test should be better than what they find out by flipping a coin.  Tests, used in scientifically valid ways, are supposed to help the psychologist keep from getting fooled and fooling somebody else.

Science is simply counting so the next person coming along knows what's been counted and how.  Then they can verify the results.  The counters have to clearly spell out and agree on what's counted and how.  They have to know what they measure.  And they have to be able to measure it the same way time after time in order to say something about the results.

A ruler, for example, measures distance.  This notion is standardized, readily defined, and agreed upon according to verifiable criteria.  It measures length, and that's all it does, time after time, no matter who uses it or who foots the bill.  It doesn't measure pounds or harmonic disturbances, and nobody's silly enough to say that it does.

The same standards of validity and reliability have to apply to psychological and psychiatric evaluations if they're going to mean anything at all.  Evaluators who use techniques which don't meet these standards might as well flip coins.

Here are some of the tests used, and what they can, and can't honestly be used for:

Bender Gestalt Test

This is a test for brain damage.  A person is shown some designs, and asked to copy them as accurately as possible.  Professionals disagree as to its usefulness. Some neuropsychologists don't think it's worth much.  Others see it as a useful way of screening for gross brain damage.

But even experienced psychologists made a lot of mistakes when they tried to tell if drawings were made by patients who were brain-damaged or psychotic (Goldberg, 1959).  No way was it meant to be used as a personality test (Satler, 1985).  There's absolutely no research to support the notion that the way people draw lines has anything to do with their personality and the way they act (Holmes, Ct al., 1984).  Any professional who uses the Bender Gestalt test to say anything about personality is tea leaf reading, and guilty of malpractice.

Rorschach Ink Blot Test

There's no reliable Scientific evidence to show what a person "reads" into 10 ink blots reflects underlying personality characteristics.  And there's an increasingly large body of evidence to show it doesn't.  Asking people questions about these or any other blots has a gut level appeal.  It looks like it might reveal something.  But that doesn't cut it when it comes to scientific scrutiny.

You are a defendant.  You look at a blot and see Dolly Parton standing in a hot tub singing "the Star Spangled Banner" and say you'd like to join her in a duet.

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Shrink One: You have a latent desire to climb mountains. You hate your father.  And you're a danger to the health and welfare of the community.
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Shrink Two: You see women as sex objects. Your father molested you. Your antisocial tendencies are as deep as the Grand Canyon.  You're a danger to the health and welfare of the community.
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Shrink Three: You love your mother too much, test the limits of conventional restraints, want to bust out of the joint, and are a danger to the health and welfare of the community.
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Shrink Four: You hate your mother, but like her cooking, and are a latent polymorphous perverse fag.  You're a danger, etc.
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Shrink Five: All of the above.

Nobody agrees how to score responses objectively.  There is nothing to show what any particular response means to the person who gives it.  And, there is nothing to show what it means if a number of people give the same response.  The ink blots are scientifically useless (Bartol, 1983).  The only thing the inkblots do reveal is the secret world of the examiner who interprets them.  These doctors are probably saying more about themselves than about the subjects (Anastasi, 1982).  There are other tests which fall into this category (draw a line or tell a story and the evaluator tells you what that means).  The Thematic Apperception Test and the Draw a House, Tree, Person are two of the more popular ones.  They are as scientifically worthless as the inkblots.

Palo Alto Destructiveness Test

A licensed psychologist in Oregon said the Palo Alto Destructiveness Test was based on the ink blots. He reported on this test this way.

"... shows a significant amount of destructive content, however, the average for any one card does not reach the predictive level for reoffense.  His score is however well within the error margin and independent scoring for sexual content shows a strong tendency towards expressiveness in this modality."

But there is no valid "destructive content" or "predictive level" or error margin" or "sexual content" or "strong tendency towards expressiveness in this modality."  There is not any valid "modality."  The author of this bit of creative writing, Robert William Davis, Ph.D., is a Diplomate of the American Board of Professional Psychology and consultant to the Oregon Parole Board.  This effort is supposedly based on a test that is as well known as Humpty Dumpty's second cousin and as relevant as a wet dream.  It's not listed in the bible of testing, Buros Mental Measurement Yearbook, or the most complete list of tests and scales used in crime studies, the Handbook of Scales for Research in Crime and Delinquency (Brodsky; 1983), or in the more recent Tests in Print IV (Murphy, Conoley, & Impala, 1994), which suggests it's most likely neither reliable nor useful.

Like home-brewed medicine which isn't approved by the FDA or listed in the PDR, anyone using this stuff for experimental purposes on unknowing, unwilling subjects would be guilty of malpractice.  If the subjects were hurt by his experimenting, he'd be looking at felony counts.  Yet this doctor used a non-established score on a non-established scale on a non-established test as part of a recommendation to keep a man in the clink.  There's a name for that.

The Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory

The big gun.  There are some 556 true-false questions (depending on the version).  There were enough problems with the old one (Colligan, Osborne, Swenson, & Offord, 1985; Frashingbauer, 1979) so that it was recently revised.  It is the most widely used and most carefully researched test around.  And it lends itself to more crapola and exaggeration than any other test around.  It is also the most cost effective.  The subject marks answers on a sheet which is then usually scored by computer.  The scoring service might charge thirty dollars a pop.  The doctor bills one hundred and fifty for reading the printout.

Sometimes evaluators tell clients to take it home and do it.  A prisoner is told to take the test to his cell.  This is like drug testing someone by having them wee in the specimen bottle at home and bring it back.

The MMPI can be useful to distinguish between groups of people who have some sort of mental or emotional problems (Buros, 1972; Zelin, 1971).  Used properly, it can have some value.  But there is a significant amount of controversy about its validity and usefulness when personality characteristics are extrapolated to an individual, although this is the way it is generally used (Carbonell, Megargee, & Moorhead 1984; Gianetti, Johnson, Kiplinger, & Williams, 1978; Gynter, 1972; Holmes, Dungan, & Medlin, 1984).

One might legitimately say, "The answers this 30-year-old white male gave are like the answers of 900 other white males that same age who were alcoholics.  Only five out of a hundred non-alcoholics answered all the questions the way he did.  There's a fair chance he might have problems with booze.  Check it out."

One can't correctly say, "Test results demonstrate that he is an alcoholic."  This is because the pattern of answers ("Protocol") is, at best, a probability statement.

(If you're Black, Chicano, or Native American, forget it.  The test was standardized on middle class whites.  There's not a heck of a lot this test can legitimately say about you.  It is the same way with most personality tests, for that matter.)

What this adds up to is that, at best, personality characteristics for an individual extrapolated from this test are highly controversial.  Properly used, it might be useful.  But, most evaluators go way beyond the percentages and make totally unfounded statements about what answers mean.  And they close their eyes to the fact that, in prison, the questions, answer sheets, and profiles, are as common as pat-downs and bells.  This further compromises its validity, and says a lot about the prison research where it's been used.

When you look over the standard evaluations written up by psychiatrists and psychologists who do work for the state, ask yourself where their ideas come from.  You know they don't get any valid (the ruler measuring what it says it measures, in a clear way other people can understand and check) information about personality from the Bender Gestalt, Ink Blots, TAT, Draw-A-Person tests. And what they get from the MMPI is usually debatable.  So where do they get all that stuff?

Clinical Judgment

This is the part where the doctor whooshes up to the altar, buffs a crystal ball, doffs a cone hat with the moon and the stars, tosses on a judge's robe, communes with The Force, and talks like Yoda.  If they don't get honest information from their personality tests, they must get it from their experience and clinical intuition, right?  The professional's judgment in itself, so the argument goes, is probably good, because of all that training and experience along with all of the confidence he has in his opinion.  Now, even where tests are valid and reliable, the tester has to decide how to combine, interpret, and emphasize the results.  This is "Clinical Judgment," and there's a wealth of research on it.  It shows that, in spite of the enormous faith professionals have in their clinical intuition, it's usually wrong (Garb, 1989; Goldstein, Deysach, & Kleinknecht, 1973; Vane, 1975).  Some examples:

Psychologists were given a highly detailed description of various people.  Then, they were given multiple-choice items to mark about some of the things these people would do in certain situations.  But the psychologists didn't know the subjects had actually been in those situations already.  This gave a clear way of assessing the choices they made.  The psychologists not only were not accurate, they did worse than if they had just guessed or flipped a coin. (Oskamp, 1965).

When professionals were asked to diagnose temporal lobe epilepsy and given clear diagnostic indicators, they got it right 5% of the time (Farber, Schmaltz, Voile, & Hecht 1986).  Psychiatrists tend to diagnose abnormality when there isn't any (Temerlin, 1968; Temerlin & Trousdale, 1969).  Experienced psychologists did not do any better than college students at being able to tell if drawings were made by abnormal people or hospitalized schizophrenics (Plaut & Cromwell, 1955; Sundberg, Snowden, & Reynolds, 1978).

Psychiatrists and psychologists were no better than anyone else at describing a person after reading a transcript of a one hour interview (Luft, 1950).  They also were not any better than secretaries at using the Bender Gestalt test to distinguish brain damage.  There have been a lot of advances in the way people are studied, but most professionals do not know how to apply them to individuals.  So they rely on clinical judgment even though it is no better than guessing.  Sometimes it is worse.

Listen to some of the "Heavies":

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Many clinicians have been making unreliable and invalid judgments based on invalid premises, illogical assumptions, unproven relationships, inappropriate applications of unproven theories and other types of error (Thorne, 1972).
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One surprising finding — that amount of professional training and experience of the judge does not relate to judgmental accuracy — has appeared in a number of studies (Goldberg, 1959).
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... behavior science research itself shows that by and large the best way to predict anybody's behavior is his behavior in the past (Meehl, 1971).

This applies especially to the prediction of violent behavior.  Like so much else they do, many predictions professionals make about dangerousness aren't supported by the data.  The best predictor, as horse sense tells us, is the track record.  Someone who's mugged ten people is more likely to mug someone else that someone who's never mugged anybody.

How good are psychiatrists and psychologists at distinguishing between people who are "normal and "abnormal," telling the difference between those who are crazy and those who are not?  Surely psychiatrists and psychologists are better at it than others.  Answer.  They are not.  The labels in the minds of the psychiatrists and psychologists do not say much at all about the people they are hung on.

Dr. D. L. Rosenhan showed this in a delightful study in 1973.  Eight normal people entered 12 different mental hospitals.  The volunteers included a psychology graduate student, a painter, a pediatrician, three psychologists, and a housewife.  Three women, five men.  All of them were doing well with family, friends, and work.  None had suffered from any major psychiatric disorders.

To qualify as a "patient," they told the admitting officer they "heard voices."  When they were asked what the voices said, the "patients" replied "empty," "hollow," and "thud."  That's it.  Everything else they told the staff, except for fictitious names and jobs, was true.  Even when they talked about their relationships with their parents, friends, and family.  None of them went around acting crazy.

Seven were diagnosed "Schizophrenic."  The eighth, in a private hospital, was diagnosed "Manic Depressive."  They'd been there from 7 to 52 days and were never found out by the staff.  But, in three instances where reports were kept, 35 out of 118 patients on the Admissions wards suspected that the phony "patient" was sane.  Professionals saw what they expected to see.  Like the rest of us.  And, they're as influenced as most of us by color, socioeconomic status sex, age, and expectations, to name just a few things.

What if the study had involved "prisoners" in jeans, with rumpled shirts, and a standard "dossier," or "jacket"?

The doctors would give their tests, spend anywhere from 5 to 45 minutes with the subjects, and do a lot of creative writing.  The phony prisoners would be diagnosed as having a host of serious problems right out of the DSM-IV, and some would be labeled "dangerous."  Professional standing doesn't guarantee lack of bias.

Diagnostic categories don't have much meaning, either.  While there's rough agreement about broad categories (schizophrenia, personality disorder, neurosis) there's hardly any agreement about what the sub-categories mean.  Toss "Mixed Personality Disorder with Passive-Aggressive, Compulsive and Anti-social Features" at 10 shrinks, and they'll toss back 10 different meanings.

The incompetent and dishonest quality of most coerced evaluations becomes obvious when you read them.  A Ph.D. might pick out technical errors, but anybody with a bit of horse sense can see the reports are nonsense.  Because the people who order them want them that way.

This isn't new, of course.  There have been professional evaluators willing to sell people out for a long time.  In the 1300s they offered their services to the town leaders who wanted to do something about the witch problem.  These "witch prickers" stuck their unwilling subjects with long pins to see if they bled.  Witches weren't supposed to.  That's how the experts could tell when they were on to the real thing.  But some witches could fake it so prosecutors hired the prickers who could sniff them out.  They used phony retractable pins.  This was at the same time when their cousins in Spain practiced as "Jew detectors" for the Inquisition.

It was in Germany, though, in the 1930s, that doctors cut themselves in on the action and gave kooky notions a "scientific" touch.  They did their spiritual granddaddies one better, and developed a series of "tests" which proved Jews (and everybody else on their hit list) were inferior.  This involved measuring such things as the nose length, the shape of the earlobes, the distance from the eyes to the tip of the nose, and brain weight.

Peter-meter, polygraph, pillory, pin.  The techniques vary, but the purpose is the same.  Base a judgment on a ritual incantation.  Then, slap a label on somebody so somebody else can feel he has the go ahead to stick it to him while giving the appearance of correctness.

OK, Doc.  Suspicions confirmed.  The dice are loaded.  But that's like telling a guy about to be hung how they tied the knot.  You know what happens if we tell judges or the parole board they're going to have to order the shrink to do their head job on somebody else.  That is refusal to cooperate which means we're crazy.  The cure for that is 30 days in the hole.  Right.  People who refuse to undergo mandatory evaluations will probably be diagnosed pretty much the same way anyway.  With a vengeance.

Example: A man was ordered to go to Oregon State Hospital for an evaluation.  He'd been found guilty of sex abuse and said he didn't do it.  The man, I'll call him Mr. Smith, told me he talked to a psychologist for a few minutes.  (I've seen a multitude of 5 minute interviews.)  When asked why he was there, he said he'd been ordered there.  He said it was true he was charged, but it wasn't true that he did it.  (Now, we're not talking about his guilt or innocence, that isn't the issue here.  We're interested in what came out of this brief exchange.)  The evaluator stated:

It should be noted that the clinical interview with [Mr. Smith] was very short.  The reason for this hinges on a variety of areas — [Mr. Smith's] denial of the crime, his minimization of the sexual contact or incidents, and his general defensiveness and lack of cooperation. ... [Mr. Smith's] posturing was clear from the onset of the interview.  When he was initially asked why he was here, he stated that he was mandated to be here by the court because he was charged with rape and sexual abuse.  He was willing to admit those charges, but his position became very clear when he was asked whether or not he agreed with (or admitted guilt to) those charges.

The psychologist said he "shortened" the interview because of Smith's "posturing."  I suppose that means because Smith said he didn't do it.  He continues:

... there was not much data or information to be gathered.  There were no conclusions to draw about his behavior as a sex offender, his emotional status, or his motivation to change his sexual offending behavior.  These things were not able to be ascertained because [Mr. Smith] indicated from the start that he did not, in fact, commit any sexual crimes.

So far, so good.  Although Smith's "denying" and "posturing" and "willing to admit" the fact he was charged, our evaluator's saying he can't conclude anything about the guy's psychological functioning because he doesn't have anything to go on.  Right?  Wrong!  Take a deep breath and read something the Queen of Hearts might have written if she'd left Wonderland to do graduate work in clinical psychology.

This evaluation team [Smith said he spoke just to a single psychologist for a few minutes] does not take the position of judging whether or not an individual has, in fact, committed a sexual crime.  Our position is clear; that position being that when a sexual offender comes to Oregon State Hospital to be evaluated, we rely on the legal records and documentation as being accurate and factual. ...  Based on our position [Mr. Smith] is seen as very defensive, closed off to receiving information, his denial system is solidly entrenched in stating that he did not do the crime, and that he is highly invested in not admitting his sexual offending behavior.  Because of this, the evaluation team also believes that he is not a candidate for any kind of sexual offender treatment because of his severe denial system and lack of motivation and desire to look at himself as a sexual offender, or at least as an individual who has committed a sexual crime. ...  It is the recommendation of the evaluation team that [Mr. Smith] be incarcerated for the maximum amount of time allowed by the law. ... The evaluation team sees [Mr. Smith] as being sexually dangerous and at a high degree of risk to sexually reoffend at this time.  We do not see him being safe for the community whatsoever.  If you have any further questions about [Mr. Smith) or our recommendations, please feel free to contact us.

Well, I've got a bunch of questions, Your Doctorships.  Since I'm not so hot at mind reading and prognostication, how about sharing with us the means by which you could divine such detailed, powerful, and unequivocal conclusions about an individual you didn't examine and after you admitted you didn't have anything to go on?  Do you mean the more a person says he didn't do it, the more you're sure he did?  Do you mean that people are never who they say they are, never do what they say they do, never think what they say they think?  Is this anything like E. Y. Harburg's delightful "Missing the Miss I kiss, and kissing the Miss I miss"?

Do you have any data, something scientific, on which to base this inverse relationship between guilt and protestations of innocence or, as you put it, denial?  Or is this based on historical precedent?  Would you, please, supply us with a list of references showing how you can validly and reliably predict this mans behavior?

If a non-professional (non- M.S.W., M.D., Ph.D.) diagnosed the guy who took his place in the parking lot as a "Paranoid Schizophrenic" and forcibly brought him to you for an evaluation, would you accept that diagnosis?

If not, how would you go about making the determination?  What if the fellow he brought in didn't want to have anything to do with you?  What if he denied taking the parking place?  What if he was pissed?

Would you say he did it, was dangerous, and shouldn't drive again, or even be around cars without professional supervision?  Is this any different than what you've done with this report?

Are you saying that non-professionals —  judge, jury, prosecutor — are as qualified to make psychiatric and psychological determinations as you pretend to be?

Is it important to take a history?  To try and corroborate information you've been given in a case?  If the Supreme Court said someone had a malignancy, and sent them to you (a surgeon) for an evaluation, would you cut without verifying the diagnosis?

Would you agree you're not independent professionals?  That your opinions are tied in to the customers' needs?

Would you please explain your diagnosis-by-juridical-fiat?

Do you see your primary allegiance to science, or to the person paying the bill?

You maintain you "rely on the legal records to be accurate and factual."  Isn't taking a lay opinion as fact against the ethical standards of your professions?  Would you call it "rubber stamping" or "Dial-A-Diagnosis"?

How do you justify this perverse and minatory flip-flop in the traditional doctor-patient relationship?  Exactly what is it you're evaluating?  Couldn't a secretary do the job just as well, and save the taxpayer some money?

Would you "ditto" a diagnosis if you could be held liable in a civil action?  Would you be willing to subject this report to the scrutiny of objective professionals who don't work for the state?  Would you be willing to submit this report for evaluation and criticism by your professional association?

This particular Through-The-Looking-Glass team consisted of Greg Barisich, MSW (social worker) Unit Director David P. McGourty, Ph.D., psychologist, and Glenn D. Fraser, M.D., psychiatrist.  This letter was addressed to Philip Shapiro, M.D., chief medical officer who signs off on this stuff for Oregon State Hospital.

With the judge, prosecutor, and Lord knows who else, at the peephole.

So what to do, in this no-win situation?  Well, don't count on the professional associations.  They police their own the way bar associations police prosecutors.  Consumer protection isn't their thing.  Each state has psychological and medical associations, and licensing boards.  Unlike bar associations, licensing boards aren't private concerns, though they often act that way.  Sometimes, these reports are written by present and past board members.  You run the risk of retribution if you complain.  But, if enough well-founded complaints are made, it might make them uncomfortable enough to look into the matter.

A few hints: If possible, log times in and out; be polite; make eye contact; don't volunteer information (he won't hear it the way you mean it); call him "Doctor" (Not: "Muthafugga"); If you're black, talk like Bill Cosby talking white; write down the names of the tests; if he gives you one with lots of questions you have to answer with a "T" or "F" act like you're sick and see if he'll let you do it in your cell (when the results go against you, and they will, you can challenge them because he violated the test rules.)

A good resource, if you think a psychiatrist or psychologist did a dishonest job of evaluating you, Is Jay Ziskin's 1995 book, Coping with Psychiatric and Psychological Testimony (Hardcover).

I continue to survey these reports from around the country.  In some states, psychologists who write them lose their immunity as consultants.  People are starting to sue them for malpractice, which is the only way they'll stop this crap.  Some psychscam victims are looking into the possibility of class action suits.

If you send me your reports, leave the name of the psychologist or psychiatrist who wrote them.  It's time to bring the crappers out of the closet and give them the attention they deserve.

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* William F. Mclver II, Ph.D. may be reached at 127 West 96th Street, Apartment PHA, New York, New York 10025.  [Back]

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