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Legal, criminological and forensic

One on one... with Ruth Mann

Rehabilitation Services Group, National Offender Management Service. Includes web-only answers.

22 March 2011

One inspiration
Early in my career, my understanding of sexual offending was shaped by Professor Bill Marshall – one of the leading academic practitioners working with sex offenders. Bill has tirelessly reminded us sex offenders are human beings and that our best chance of breaking through with them is to treat them with humanity and respect.

One moment that changed the course of your career
It was probably simply going into a prison. Originally I took a fixed-term contract in a prison to fill a year while I waited for a postgraduate university place in a different field. Once I had started working in a prison I knew that this was the career for me and so I changed all my plans.

One myth about working with sex offenders
That they are all devious liars by nature, determined to dupe everyone so they can go on offending. Most sex offenders do not re-offend, and many of them are very distressed and ashamed about what they have done.

One book that you think all psychologists should read
The SPSS Survival Guide by Julie Pallant. The author is a genius at explaining how to analyse data. I am living proof of the fact that you can do publishable research simply by following her advice.

One thing that you would change about psychology
The fact that so many applied psychologists feel underconfident about doing research.

One challenge psychology faces
Working against the tide of public opinion. Sex offenders are more likely to re-offend if they feel threatened and ostracised.

One great thing about the Sex Offender Treatment Programme
I think the great thing about our programme is that, taking into account its size, it runs so well. Across 25 sites we have hundreds of people implementing evidence-based treatment with great skill, flexibility and determination.

One nugget of advice for aspiring psychologists
Read as widely as you can across all fields of psychology. Although it is a job just to keep up with the forensic psychology literature, reading outside the forensic literature is often more inspiring.

One cultural recommendation
Stay away from films and books that present sadistic violence as a form of entertainment.

One alternative career path you may have chosen
I would probably have been a teacher like both my parents.

One hero from psychology past or present
My professional hero is Professor Clive Hollin (University of Leicester) who supervised my PhD. As another of his students said of him, Clive is a scholar and a gentleman. I could not have wished for a better supervisor.

One great thing that psychology has achieved
Making evidence-based practice the norm.

One hope for the future
That it continues to break new ground. We still have a lot to learn about the psychology of crime.

One more question
Why does society despise sex offenders so much more than other people who ruin or end a child’s life, such as those who neglect their children, bring children up to be angry and violent, or take their lives by drink-driving?

One proud moment
My husband and I have two wonderful boys so I have proud moments all the time. Professionally it was probably winning the DFP Senior Award this year.

One regret
I can honestly say I regret very little. I try to live by the philosophy that all mistakes (and the act of recovering from them, which includes making good) are opportunities for learning.

One psychological superpower you would like
Statistical genius.

One thing that ‘organised psychology’ could do better
Possibly provide better support for people struggling with ethical dilemmas. Something like a panel of ethics experts who could be consulted about complicated issues.

One problem that psychology should deal with