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meagan's avatar

Would you mind being a prison psychologist?

Asked by meagan (4640 points ) July 31st, 2010

I don’t know what it is, but television documentaries about prison always interest me.
I’ve been considering going to school for psychology, and thought about this career move.

How would you like to be a prison psychologist? Would it be terrifying, crawling around in the mind of murderers? Or would you find this interesting? Studying these people could be so intriguing.
Or would you be too afraid to do something like this?

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26 Answers

SufiClown's avatar

I think it’ll be a mix of both fear and excitement. It will be a challenging vocation obviously. However, it will be a rewarding one too.

anartist's avatar

My cousin has been a prison therapist for many years [she is close to retirement] and she has found her job interesting and challenging.
When you say “studying” I hope you are not talking about a research psychologist, because the prime work of any therapist is to help their patients, no matter who they are, and the prison system would not have a position for a research psychologist. Maybe the FBI as a profiler?

downtide's avatar

I think it would be fascinating. I often wonder what goes on in the minds of criminals, to make them do what they do.

zophu's avatar

If I ever went to prison, I would need a psychologist. Because I would definitely lose any sanity I have left. I would be broken, and I would need the expertise of a psychologist if I were to have any hope of being whole again. I couldn’t handle highschool. There’s no way I could hold myself together in prison.

“Rehabilitation” in this context is a misnomer as far as I can tell. Would be helpful to have more determined prison psychologists.

zenele's avatar

@downtide Probably the same as you and I – they just acted upon it – and got caught.

Frenchfry's avatar

I have no interest in talking to the bad guys. Why they did it or how innocent they are? Dwell in the a crimnal mind… To me I think it would be a bunch of excuses. I have not had the easiest life believe me. I didn’t have to steal or kill, rape or anything. I am sorry.

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

I think it would be a great job, if you got to work with interesting criminals. Some are just dull though, so as with every job it would have its good and bad points.

Facade's avatar

I think that’d be interesting work. I wouldn’t mind.

Jude's avatar

No interest at all. :)

ZEPHYRA's avatar

I would find it a brilliant career choice!

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

I would rather be a prison psychologist than any other kinds, that’s for sure.

GeorgeGee's avatar

I’ve studied psychology and neuroscience through the doctoral level and personally I’d want nothing to do with a prison psych job. It would be interesting for about 15 minutes then it would start to wear you down, grinding away at your soul. I wouldn’t ever want to be in a job where the only thing to look forward to is getting home and drinking one’s self into oblivion.

Carly's avatar

I don’t know how many jobs there are like that in the world, but the US has a lot of friggin prisons. I hope you’d be helping these inmates out in some way instead of just figuring out just how crazy they were.

If it were me, I personally wouldn’t do it. @GeorgeGee, I agree with you 100%

Ron_C's avatar

I was a drug and alcohol advisor as a collateral duty in the Navy. I heard some ridiculous things that people did to get high and about the damage they did to themselves and others as a result.

I can’t even imagine what a prison psychologist would experience. I could not do it and think that Psychologists should rotate through that job for their own personal and mental safety.

It seems that your choice would be to suffer with empathy for your clients or become emotionally detached and cold for your own mental safety.

There is no way that I would ever consider such a job and I wish those that do well. I also hope that they get a lot of R&R.

le_inferno's avatar

I’m a psychology major, and this is definitely something I would not do. It would be way too much for me to deal with. It’s not just about “seeing what makes the bad guys tick”... you have to deal with the pain and suffering they experience in prison. I’d feel powerless and depressed. How can you really help someone who is stuck behind bars? How can they enjoy life?

daytonamisticrip's avatar

I would love it. I want to be a psychologist and i especially like to get into the mind of a criminal.

daytonamisticrip's avatar

i always watch the show lock-up and i love hearing what killers have to say.

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

@le_inferno At least you would be dealing with people who need help the most, so any difference you made would be a big one. You’re right that its not just about poking around in their heads, but prisoners have particular needs that would be a challenge for any psychologist thanks to the unique social dynamics in a prison. It wouldn’t be a fun job, but it would be a rewarding one. Imagine the joy you would feel when an inmate was released and went on to live a good, successful life, and know that you helped them get there!

daytonamisticrip's avatar

unless they turn around and rob a bank or kill someone. now how rewarding is that. :)

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

@daytonamisticrip Part of being a prison psychologist would be writing recommendations to the parole board. If you thought your work wasn’t yet done, you could recommend they be refused parole.

The current attitude to justice breeds re-offenders though, so if they did rob a bank or kill someone chances are it wouldn’t be your fault (not that knowing that would stop the guilt).

zophu's avatar

People imagine prison populations to be made up of mostly murderers and child molesters. I think the majority of people in there are there for non-violent crimes, or violent crimes like bar fights gone wrong and robberies. It’s not like you’d be in hell interviewing the souls of the damned from 9–5 every weekday.

And even the really messed up ones would be interesting to you if you had devoted so much energy to the profession. And you’d be skilled at handling your own stress, so you could deal with any discomfort your work caused you. It wouldn’t be that bad.

There wouldn’t be as many warm moments, though. Regardless of what psychological breakthroughs you made with your patients, they would still be in fucking prison. Maybe if you could rotate working at the prison with working at a normal clinic.

YARNLADY's avatar

Yes, if I was qualified, I would enjoy that job. I did some volunteer work with families of incarcerated people, and found it very rewarding. The only problem is that it is a government job, and doesn’t pay well.

ratboy's avatar

Most of the people in prison are there for non-violent drug related offences; they’re “criminals” only because of very bad public policy.

CMaz's avatar

No. That is one mind fuck job.

“Most of the people in prison are there” because they have psychological disorders.

“they’re “criminals”” because they have issues.

evandad's avatar

Hell job

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