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What Is a Forensic Sociologist?

by Linda Ray, studioD

Sociologists study human behavior and how it operates within various social functions. Humans on an individual or group level constitute the basis for sociological discovery. Forensic sociology takes that information and relates it to crime scenes, mental illness claims of criminals, and the study of the origins of substance abuse and violence.

Crime Scene Analysis

Forensic sociologists are involved as criminalists when they’re invited to a crime scene to determine potential negligence. They work in both civil and criminal cases. After investigating a crime scene, the sociologist studies the history of violence or crime in the area and determines how secure the building or site was before the incident. By including the scene in the social context of the neighborhood and history of the place, the forensic sociologist can make a case for negligence on the part of the building owner or security company in as much as they should have been able to foresee the crime.

Workers and Compensation Issues

A forensic sociologist often is called to explore the effects of a disease or injury on an employee. After studying the workplace and the role it plays in the employee’s case against the employer, the sociologist can provide expert testimony as to how the two intertwined. The effects of a workplace injury for example, may cause family, educational and occupational consequences that the employee is seeking compensation for. Alternatively, the forensic sociologist can testify for employers in workman’s compensation and disability claims after inspecting the workplace and finding no sociological cause for the injury.

Expert Witness on Social Impact of Crime

Forensic sociologists may speak on behalf of defendants seeking to justify or explain their behavior. Some of the areas of expertise developed through the study of forensic sociology and the social impact of crime include the study of street gangs and the social hierarchy inherent in those groups, the socio-economic impact of an area on a person’s behavior, and how mental illness plays a role in criminal behavior. They may speak at parole hearings or bail determination hearings to provide insight into the social impact of the determination.

Policy Makers

Forensic sociologists also may write papers regarding the influence of social development on criminal behavior. After studying a specific field of behavior, such as substance abuse or mental illness, forensic sociologists may advise treatment facilities on how to create programs to address the issues creatively and substantially. Because of their training in criminal sociology, criminalists often are invited to sit on advisory boards or committees that direct public policy or research social policy objectives. According to the University of Massachusetts, a forensic sociologist has the opportunity to make a real difference in the world and its treatment and prevention of criminal activities.

About the Author

Linda Ray is an award-winning journalist with more than 20 years reporting experience. She's covered business for newspapers and magazines, including the "Greenville News," "Success Magazine" and "American City Business Journals." Ray holds a journalism degree and teaches writing, career development and an FDIC course called "Money Smart."

Photo Credits

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