Allison Redlich, CINA Science Committee and George Mason Professor of Criminology, Law and Society, was trained as an experimental psychologist. In graduate school, her research began with studying interview techniques focused on the most effective ways to interview children who were the victim of, or witness to, a crime. Her research then evolved into how best to interrogate children who were suspected of committing a crime. Redlich also studies wrongful convictions, with a particular focus on false confessions and false guilty pleas.
One of her recent studies, published in the journal, Psychology, Crime & Law, compares accusatorial and information gathering interrogation methods of law enforcement in the United States, Canada, Europe, Australia, and New Zealand.
“According to the National Registry of Exonerations, about 12-15% of wrongful convictions include false confessions and these come about under accusatorial interrogation,” Redlich states. Accusatorial interrogation, used primarily in the United States, has led to a majority of these false confessions. The United Kingdom was one of the first countries to switch over to the information gathering method, which is a method based on scientific principles.
This study, along with Redlich’s impressive and extensive body of research, granted her an invitation to participate in a three-day conference “Colaboração Premiada”: An Investigation´s Tool, in Brasilia, Brazil this past September.
“A primary impetus for the conference was because plea bargaining has recently become an essential, but controversial, investigation technique used by Brazilian prosecutors for combating high level public corruption in Brazil,” Redlich shares. Whereas the Federal Police have adopted an information gathering approach when interviewing suspects, Brazilian prosecutors are purported to use accusatorial methods to secure guilty pleas. The Federal Police see plea bargaining as an issue because they view it as prosecutors usurping their role as investigators and investigating cases without the proper authority or know-how.
Redlich addressed these issues and more in her keynote speech “Confronting Confrontational Models of Interrogation and Plea Bargaining” and in her participation in the round table discussions.
Redlich has an active laboratory where she, along with doctoral students and a postdoctoral fellow, continue to research interrogations and confessions, guilty pleas and their effects on US and international practices and outcomes. Relevant to the work of CINA, when DHS agents are equipped with the most effective and evidence-based methods of interviewing suspected offenders, prosecutors are better positioned to secure convictions, and the ultimate goal of thwarting transnational crimes becomes increasingly possible.