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Sentencing Decisions

  1. Read Week 6 Assignment: Sentencing Decisions [PDF], a fictitious case scenario, for insight into how forensic psychology affects the courts.
  2. Put yourself in the shoes of a criminal justice intern shadowing the forensic psychologist in a local court. The psychologist has asked you to do some research for a workshop she’s hosting about psychological aspects related to the court process to help the community understand the role of a forensic psychologist and what they can bring to the criminal justice system.
  3. Refer to Chapters 2, 9, and 10 in your textbook and the B.S. in Criminal Justice Library Guide for resources for completing this assignment.


Use the case scenario and other resources to write a 2-page report addressing the following questions:

  1. What did the psychologist do to determine if Mr. Bell was competent to stand trial?
  2. What role did the psychologist play in the determining whether Mr. Bell was mentally ill or developmentally delayed in his court hearing?
  3. What assessment tools did the psychologist use to determine Mr. Bell’s diagnosis? (Various assessment tools are covered in Chapter 10 in your textbook).
  4. What additional assessment did the forensic psychologist use to determine what facility Mr. Bell should be placed in?

Use three academic resources to support your responses. Your textbook can be included as a resource. Consult Basic Search: Strayer University Online Library and B.S. in Criminal Justice Library Guide for the other two sources.

This course requires the use of Strayer Writing Standards. For assistance and information, please refer to the Strayer Writing Standards link in the left-hand menu of your course. Check with your professor for any additional instructions.

The specific course learning outcome associated with this assignment is:

Week 6 Assignment: Sentencing Decisions

State of Florida vs. Bryon Bell (Fictitious case, based on a true story)

Scenario: On Sunday, October 17, 1981 at 10:05 PM, Bryon Bell entered the Sunny Way Liquor Store with a loaded shot gun. The store manager was the only person on the premises. Bell demanded the money from the register and the safe. The manager of the store panicked and grabbed the end of the shotgun. The shotgun discharged, and the manager was killed. Bell collected the $126.00 from the register, could not open the safe, stole a six pack of beer and fled the scene on foot. A patron found the scene at 10:11 PM and called 911.

Bell was found by the Orange County Sheriff’s Department at 10:28 PM. He was three blocks from the store, intoxicated; and in possession of the discharged shot gun, the stolen money and the unopened six pack of beer. Bell was arrested and taken into custody without incident. Bell was given a breathalyzer test, and his blood alcohol measured at .14. He was clearly intoxicated. Bell admitted to police that he had been drinking all day, was kept in police custody and was not released. Bell was charged with First Degree Murder and Armed Robbery. Bell reported that he was unable to pay for counsel and would be using a Public Defender. Bell was transferred to the Orange County Correctional Facility and held without bond.

Bell was arraigned in the Orange County Courthouse on Monday, October 25, 1981, pleaded innocent and requested a trial by jury. The judge then ordered a Psychological Evaluation. Bell was then referred to a forensic psychologist, Sandi Smith, for a Psychological Evaluation. It was determined by the Psycho-social Evaluation that Bell was mentally fit to stand trial and understood the charges. Bell’s diagnosis was Bipolar One Disorder (most recent episode mixed) and Alcohol Dependence. It was also recommended by Smith that Bell be given the Jail Screening Assessment Tool (JSAT). The assessment and report Smith produced showed that Bell was not a suicide risk, and his violent behavior was attributed to his substance abuse. Bryon Bell awaited his trial. On December 10, 1981, Bell chose to plea bargain, as the State’s Attorney’s office offered one charge of Second-Degree Murder with a sentence of life with possibility of parole. Bell agreed with the plea and was sentenced to life.

On January 11, 1982, Bryon Bell began his sentence, and was transferred to Wakulla Corrections Center in Raiford, Florida. As Bell was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder, it was suggested, by Smith, that he see the medical staff at the Wakulla Corrections Center for further diagnosis, a treatment plan, and a medical exam. Smith also referred Bell to seek out Alcoholics Anonymous when incarcerated. Bell was placed on medication for the Bipolar Disorder and was placed in the general population at the correctional facility. Bell took advantage of all the programs right away. He sought out the twelve step programs and began going to religious services twice a week. He sought out religious education and began taking classes.

In 1987, Bell continued his current programs and started to work on a GED program that was held at the prison. In 1989, Bell earned his GED. Bell was a model prisoner and was given a job in prison to collect and deliver laundry. Bell was active as much as he could be, and he planned to petition to get parole in 1992.

In October of 1992, Bell petitioned for parole, and he was denied. In November of 1992, Bell had a physical altercation with his cell mate. Bell was placed in solitary confinement for four weeks. Upon Bell’s release back into the population, he was assigned to see the psychologist in the prison.

Currently, Sandi Smith was again working on the Florida Corrections team. Smith diagnosed the outburst as a symptom of Bell’s bipolar disorder. She spoke to the medical team on staff, and Bell’s medications were adjusted. His prison record was cleared, and he once back on his tasks at the prison. When Smith went to speak to the corrections officers about allowing Bell to see the medical staff, the corrections officers resisted. They explained to Smith that they were afraid to allow Bell near them, as he had become unpredictable, and they were concerned for their safety. Smith assured them that Bell’s outburst was a medication issue and his behavior would even out. The correction officers were still difficult and curt with Bell, Smith, and the medical staff for many weeks.

Bell was assigned to start anger management classes in addition to his job, religious groups and twelve step programs. Bell, once again, was a model prisoner at Wakulla Corrections Center. Bell completed the anger management program in 1993 and started his continuing education. Bell was diagnosed with COPD and

began a smoking cessation program. His extensive cigarette smoking caused the illness, and Bell took the measures to take care of himself.

On December 4, 2000, Bell petitioned for parole. He was granted a hearing. His hearing was scheduled on January 8, 2001. On December 21, 2000, Sandy Smith was called in to speak with the Bell and do a Psychological Evaluation. Smith’s assessment showed that Bell’s desire to be a law-abiding citizen was evident. Although Bell’s Bipolar Disorder was under control, he was now also diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and Alcohol Dependence in Remission. Smith was called to present to the parole board; as well as other mental health professionals, correction’s staff, and Bryon Bell, himself. Bryon Bell was granted parole, with many conditions. Bell was to be released on January 24, 2001.

Bryon Bell was released from Wakulla Corrections Center at 11:15 AM on January 24, 2001. He then had to report to the Volusia County Parole Office in DeLand, Florida by January 25, 2001, as well as register with the Daytona Sherriff’s Department as Felon and Parolee living in Volusia County Florida the same day. His restitution payment is $7350.00 for the prison term, $10,000.00 for restitution, $75.00 a month for parole, $200.00 a month for Alcohol and Mental Health Treatment. Bell’s parole would be for a term of 19 years. That placed Bell at a deficit of $351.10 a month before he started work.

Bryon Bell’s parole had stipulations that he pay the prison term off monthly, pay for parole monthly, see the parole officer monthly, attend weekly alcohol and mental health meetings, remain alcohol and drug free, refrain from socializing with other felons, submit to random drug testing, submit to random home visits from parole, have a phone number and work a job that parole can verify. Bell also had to pay $15.00 a test for random alcohol and drug testing, in the event there was a concern that he was using alcohol or drugs. Bell got a part time job as a landscaper doing work on a crew in the Florida heat for $8.00 a hour, Bell also sold his plasma for another $250.00 a month, and Bell mowed local lawns for another $300.00 a month.

Bell saw Parole Officer, J. Parrish, in Deland for 19 years. Bell showed up every month, even if he had to walk or take the bus. Bell was a model Parolee, but Bell hated going into Parole once a month. The other Parolees were loud, the sheriffs were always there arresting violators, and it reminded him of prison. Bell lived in a small house without air conditioning or hot water. His random home visits from Parrish were strained, as his living space was unorthodox, and Parrish seemed nervous. At some point, Parrish just started beeping the horn or calling on the phone, and Bell would come to the vehicle. After 19 years, Bell was released and paid up.

Bell now lives in Volusia County, he bought the small home he was living in, and has obtained two air- conditioners and a hot water heater. He is still employed, has married, and is doing well. Bell’s son, Patrick, is currently serving a 10-year sentence for armed robbery.

You’re a criminal justice intern shadowing the forensic psychologist in your local police station, county courthouse, prison, and parole office.

She has asked you to do some research to help prepare for a workshop she’s hosting about the psychological aspects related to policing, the judicial process, the prison process, and parole to help the community understand the value a forensic psychologist and what they can bring to the criminal justice system.

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