Message from the chair

The role of mental health in criminal justice has been emphasized by recent tragedies.

By Femina P. Varghese, PhD

As I am beginning to write this column, a shooting has just taken place in a Connecticut elementary school and 20 total children and 6 adults are reported dead. I am heartbroken at the loss of such innocent lives and saddened for the families mourning their loved ones. This event has left our nation to contemplate how this tragedy could have been prevented. In light of all this, I am also reminded of the importance of our work as mental health experts within the field of criminal justice.

That is why I believe a newsletter for our section that allows for communicating these and other pertinent issues is needed. Such a newsletter would allow for diverse voices to be heard, provide relevant and helpful information for our work, and offer a forum for recognizing the valuable contributions of our members. In sum, I believe that a newsletter for this section has the potential to increase the section’s sense of community and expand the visibility of our membership.

Therefore, allow me to introduce our inaugural edition of the Division 18 Criminal Justice Section Newsletter, “The Gavel.” The newsletter is entitled, “The Gavel,” because a gavel is used by justices in a courtroom to call attention to statements of importance. It is my hope that this newsletter will do just that, call attention to items of importance for our section. “The Gavel” is intended to be a bi-annual newsletter, with a winter edition and a summer edition.

I want to thank Melody Brown and Dr. Shannon Griswold for their excellent work in serving as our first newsletter co-editors. Our section has benefited from their talents in various ways, and I am happy to say that their work for this newsletter will not disappoint. I think you will agree.

In this inaugural edition, we have included guest columns from our esteemed colleagues, Dr. Joel Dvoskin and Dr. Robert Ax. Their columns provide relevant and timely reflections regarding our work in light of current events. I am grateful for their expertise and wisdom.

Wanting to spotlight our members, this edition has placed the spotlight on a Criminal Justice Section member who serves in the important role of advocating for best correctional practices in her state, Dr. Shelia Brandt. Further, this edition also contains columns for early career and student members, information on upcoming conferences, and much more!

Talking about conferences, the section chair of the Division 18 Police and Public Safety Section and I have discussed a possible combined conference between our two sections in the future. To move toward this, this year the Police and Public Safety Section desires to invite one or two speakers from our section to speak at their annual conference to occur the day before APA. I will give you updates as I hear them, but if you are planning to go to Hawaii this year for APA, do consider attending a day earlier for the Police and Public Safety Section Conference. Six continuing education credits will be offered.

I would like to give special thanks to everyone who contributed to this inaugural edition, particularly each of the members of the Criminal Justice Section’s Ad-hoc Committee. This newsletter would not have been possible without the work of each of these individuals. In order to recognize the contributions of the writers, each were asked to provide a picture to be placed next to their respective columns. I hope you enjoy this inaugural edition. Should you have any interest or desire to contribute as a guest columnist, feel free to contact our newsletter editors, Melody C. Brown and Dr. Shannon Griswold.