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Kristen K. Beyer


Competency to stand trial (CST) evaluations may be the most common criminal forensic psychology evaluation. Due to the increased diversity of defendants within the legal system, forensic psychologists can be faced with major challenges regarding evaluation practices within various cultural groups. The purpose of this qualitative phenomenological research was to investigate how forensic psychologists’ lived experiences help them to understand racial/ethnic bias when conducting CST evaluations on minority defendants. Implicit bias theory founded on the concept that all people have unconscious biases that affect decision-making and actions. The research question explored the lived experiences of forensic psychologists and the impact racial/ethnic bias has when conducting CST evaluations on minority defendants. Each participant had at least one year of experience conducting CST evaluations on minorities, were currently employed at a place where CST evaluations are conducted and were over the age of 18. Data collected from nine forensic psychologists were coded and placed into thematic categories and themes. Results indicated minority defendants were impacted by both negative (e.g., racial profiling, White privilege, making assumptions based off race and/or gender, and engaging in problematic practices/behaviors) and positive (e.g., continuing education and receiving guidance from academic resources and colleagues) effects. This research is significant to psychology professionals, teachers/professors, and persons of all racial/ethnic backgrounds due to creating awareness of racial/ethnic factors that affect CST evaluations, creating educational opportunities, and increasing insight which could hopefully lead to less bias within CST evaluations.

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