Dr. Cunningham is the recipient of the prestigious 2019 American Correctional Association Peter P. Lejins Research Award. This annual award is the highest honor bestowed by the American Correctional Association upon a corrections researcher. The award honors an “individual who has produced significant research for the correctional community and has demonstrated personal commitment and contribution to improve the profession of corrections.” Dr. Cunningham and his co-investigators have performed research on a number of important issues in departments of corrections in Arizona, Florida, Indiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Oregon, and Texas, as well as in the federal Bureau of Prisons. Dr. Cunningham will be honored at an awards luncheon during the 2019 ACA Winter Conference in New Orleans in January.
Download a description of the corrections research projects forming a basis for this award.
In recognition of his expertise and research experience, Dr. Cunningham has been invited to serve on the editorial board of Behavioral Sciences and the Law. In this role, he will regularly peer review submissions to the journal. Behavioral Sciences & the Law is a highly respected peer reviewed journal which provides current and comprehensive information from throughout the world on topics at the interface of the law and the behavioral sciences. The journal balances theoretical, mental health, legal, and research writings to provide a broad perspective on pertinent psycho-legal topics. Dr. Cunningham routinely serves as an invited peer reviewer for other psychology, criminology, and criminal justice scientific journals.
Dr. Cunningham was recognized in London on November 30 with a commendation by the judges for the international John Maddox Prize. He is among 10 scientists commended from an international field of 95 nominees from 25 countries. The Maddox Prize recognizes the work of individuals who promote sound science and evidence on a matter of public interest, facing difficulty or hostility in doing so. The Maddox Prize is a joint initiative of the journal Nature (pre-eminent science journal), the Kohn Foundation, and Sense About Science. Dr. Cunningham was recognized for challenging longstanding misconceptions around the perception of capital offenders, persevering in the face of resistance and hostility.
A peer-reviewed journal article coauthored by Dr. Cunningham and Dr. Gil Macvaugh was cited by the U.S. Supreme Court in March 2017 in Moore v. Texas. In the Moore opinion, SCOTUS disallowed the restrictive Briseno criteria asserted by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals for diagnosing Intellectual Disability (formerly Mental Retardation) in capital cases. The article cited had previously been specified as authority in amici curiae briefs filed in this case by the American Psychological Association (APA) and the American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (AAIDD). Drs. Macvaugh and Cunningham were gratified to have their scholarship inform public policy.
A text, Forensic Assessments in Criminal and Civil Law: A Handbook for Lawyers, where Dr. Cunningham contributed a chapter, has been recognized with the American Psychology-Law Society Book Award. This award is given to a scholarly book devoted to psychology and law issues to recognize outstanding scholarship in psychology and law.
Effective March 1, 2016, Dr. Cunningham’s office relocated to Seattle, Washington. Our phone number, address, and staff have changed. Amy Kaname is managing the office. Please visit the contact us page for our new contact information.
Dr. Cunningham and colleagues, Dr. Tom Reidy and Dr. Jon Sorensen, have published important findings in Psychology, Public Policy, and Law. The confinement of capital punishment (death-sentenced) inmates nationwide is typified by marked interpersonal isolation and activity deprivation on segregated death rows. These super maximum security measures are ostensibly based on an assumption that capital punishment inmates are at high risk for violence. Super maximum confinement on death row has high costs: fiscal, staffing, and psychological. This study provided a 25-year follow-up on the Missouri Department of Corrections unique policy of “mainstreaming” capital punishment inmates into the general population of the Potosi Correctional Center (PCC). Findings remained consistent in showing that mainstreamed capital punishment inmates (N = 85) had equivalent or lower rates of violent misconduct than inmates serving life-without-parole (N = 702) or term-sentences (N = 3,000). The failure of assumptions of high violence risk undergirding death row has important public policy and correctional implications.
Recently published, The death penalty and intellectual disability provides a comprehensive and cogent resource for the use of the range of professionals involved in the determination process for intellectual disability within the criminal justice system. Among the critical topics addressed is Professional Issues in Atkins Assessments, Chapter 22, written by Macvaugh, G. S., Cunningham, M. D., & Tassé, M. J. In this chapter, the authors identify not only professional issues, but ethical issues experts face, in addition to providing recommendations for practice. Click here to learn more about this publication.