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.
I wrote this for my pen pals in the Oregon State Penitentiary, where
I was "Resident Psychologist" in 1988-1989. Hence, the
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
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
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.
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"
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:
||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 ...
||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.
||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 ...
||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.
||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
||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
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
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
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.
||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.
||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
||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.
||Shrink Four: You hate your mother, but like her cooking, and
are a latent polymorphous perverse fag. You're a danger,
||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
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
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,
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":
||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).
||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
||... 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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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 ().
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.
Anastasi, A. (1982). Psychological Testing ()().
New York: McMillen and Co., p. 582.
Bartol, C. R. (1983). Psychology and American Law ().
Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Publishing
Brodsky, S. L. (1983). Handbook of Scales for Research in Crime
and Delinquency ().
New York: Plenum Press.
Buros, O. K. (1965). Sixth Mental Measurements Yearbook ().
Highland Park, NJ: The Gryphon Press.
Buros, O. K (1972). Seventh Mental Measurements Yearbook ().
Highland Park, NJ: The Gryphon Press.
Carbonell, J. L., Megargee, E. I., & Moorhead, K. M. (1984).
Predicting prison adjustment with structured personality inventories. Journal of Consulting and Clinical
Psychology, 52, 280-294.
Colligan, R. C., Osborne, D., Swenson, W. M., & Offord, K. P.
(1985). Using 1983 norms for MMPI code type frequencies in four clinical
samples. Journal of Personality and Social
Psychology, 48, 925-933.
Farber, L. G., Schmaltz, L. W., VoIle, F. O., & Hecht, P. (1986).
Temporal lobe epilepsy: Diagnostic accuracy. The International
Journal of Clinical Neuropsychology, 8, 76-79.
Frashingbauer, F. R. (1979). The Future of the MMPI. In C. S. Newmark
(Ed.), MMPI: Clinical and Research Trends (),
New York: Praeger
Garb, H. N. (1989). Clinical judgment, clinical training, and
professional experience. Psychological Bulletin,
Gianetti, R. A., Johnson, D. H., Kiplinger, D. E., & Williams, T.
A. (1978). Comparison of linear and configural MMPI diagnostic methods
with uncontaminated criterion. Journal of Consulting and Clinical
Psychology, 46, 1046-1052.
Goldberg, L. (1959). The effectiveness of clinician's judgment:
Diagnosis of organic brain damage from the Bender Gestalt test. Journal of Consulting
Psychology, 23, 25-33.
Goldstein, S. G., Deysach, R. E., & Kleinknecht, R. A. (1973).
Effect of experience and amount of information on identification of
cerebral impairment. Journal of Consulting and Clinical
Psychology, 46, 196-197.
Gynter, M.D. (1972). White norms, and black MMPIs: A prescription for
discrimination. Psychological Bulletin,
Holmes, C. B., Dungan. D. S., & Medlin, W. D. (1984.)
Reassessment of inferring personality traits from the Bender Gestalt
drawings. Journal of Consulting and Clinical
Psychology, 40, 1241-1243.
Luft, J. (1950). Implicit hypotheses and clinical predictions. Journal
of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 45, 756-760.
Meehl, P. E. (1971). Law and the fireside inductions: Some
reflections of a clinical psychologist. Journal of Social Issues, 27(4),
Murphy, L. L., Conoley, J. C., & Impara, J. C. (1994). Tests
in Print IV: An Index to Tests, Test Reviews, and the Literature of Specific
Lincoln, NE: The University of Nebraska Press.
Oskamp, S. (1965). Over confidence in case study judgments. Journal of Consulting
Psychology, 29, 261-265.
Plaut, E., & Cromwell, B. (1955). The ability of the clinical
psychologist to discriminate between drawings by deteriorated
schizophrenics and normal subjects. Psychological Reports, 1,
Rosenhan, D. L. (1973). On being sane in insane places. Science,
Satler, J. M. (1985). Teaching psychological assessment: training
issues and teaching approaches. Journal of Personality Assessment,
Shaffer, J. (1981). Using the MMPI to evaluate mental impairment in
disability determinations. In J. Butcher (Ed.), Clinical notes on the
MMPI. Nutley, NJ: Roche Psychiatric Service Institute.
Sundberg. N. D., Snowden, L. R., & Reynolds, W. M. (1978).
Towards assessment of personal competence and incompetence in real life
situations. Annual Review of
Psychology, 29, 179-221.
Temerlin, M. K. (1968). Suggestion effects in psychiatric diagnosis. The
Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, 147(4), 349-353
Temerlin, M. K., & Trousdale, W. W. (1969). The social psychology
of clinical diagnosis. Psychotherapy: Theory, Research and Practice,
Thorne, F. C. (1972). Clinical Judgment. In R. H. Woody, Clinical
Assessment in Counseling and Psychotherapy ().
Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.
Vane, J. R. (1975). Thorne's theory: Hypothesis testing and diagnosis
of personality. Journal of Clinical
Psychology, 31, 198-201.
Zelin, M. (1971). Validity of MMPI scales for measuring 20
psychiatric dimensions. Journal of Consulting
Psychology, 37, 28~290.
Ziskin, J. (1995). Coping with Psychiatric and Psychological
Testimony, Fifth Edition ().
Venice, CA: Law and Psychology Press.
|* William F.
Mclver II, Ph.D. may be reached at 127 West 96th Street,
Apartment PHA, New York, New York 10025. [Back]