Saleem A. Shah

Saleem A. Shah, who was internationally known for his leadership in the field of law and mental health, died on November 25, 1992, from injuries suffered when his automobile was struck by a drunken driver. Saleem was born on December 2, 1931, in Allahabad, India. After receiving a BA from Allahabad University, he came to the United States on a fellowship and earned his PhD in clinical psychology at Pennsylvania State University in 1957. He served as a graduate psychology intern at Spring Grove State Hospital, outside Baltimore, where he met his wife, Terry, with whom he had six daughters, all of whom survive him. After leaving Penn State, Saleem joined the Legal Psychiatric Services Division of the Department of Public Health in Washington, DC. He rose quickly to the post of chief psychologist and held this position until he joined the staff of the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) in 1966.

Saleem remained at NIMH for the rest of his professional life. From 1968 to 1987, he was the chief of an extramural research program originally known as the Center for Studies of Crime and Delinquency and later as the Antisocial and Violent Behavior Branch. The scope of this program was extremely broad, covering such issues as the biology of antisocial behavior, delinquency, violence, and law and mental health studies. Saleem’s mastery of this entire interdisciplinary program soon made him a legend inside and outside NIMH, but his greatest interest was always the field of law and mental health, which he saw as encompassing the full range of interactions between the legal and mental health systems (see Law and Mental Health: Major Developments and Research Needs, 1991, with Bruce Sales).

Saleem’s personal contributions to his field can perhaps be summed up as follows. He was committed, first and foremost, to the goal of achieving fair and equitable treatment for mentally disordered offenders and other persons whose mental status was at issue before the law. In his numerous scientific publications, he repeatedly drew attention to the tension between the therapeutic and the social control objectives of mental health laws and to the need for careful analysis of underlying constructs to establish a clear ethical and legal basis for policies and programs. As his writings on these topics became widely known, he was increasingly asked to give lectures and consultations in other countries, such as Germany, the former Soviet Union, and China.

What Saleem could not do on his own, he accomplished through others. In 1968 he established law and mental health studies as a formal program priority for NIMH and became the guide and mentor for a new generation of scholars who by their empirical and theoretical work, much of it supported by NIMH, transformed the field of law and mental health studies: Thomas Grisso, John Monahan, Loren Roth, Bruce Sales, Henry Steadman, Linda Teplin, and David Wexler, to name but a few. Saleem also initiated an NIMH monograph series for the purpose of making current knowledge and research findings in law and mental health more readily available to policymakers and other potential users. More than 20 volumes were published during Saleem’s lifetime on topics such as clinical prediction of violent behavior, competency to stand trial, mental health services in local jails, and clinical treatment of violent persons.

Saleem received many honors. He was the first recipient of the American Psychology-Law Society Award for Distinguished Contributions to Psychology and Law; he also received the Isaac Ray Award of the American Psychiatric Association for outstanding contributions in law and mental health and six U.S. government awards.

The Saleem A. Shah Early Career Development Award

Given Saleem’s history of support and mentorship for so many in this field, AAFP and the American Psychology-Law Society have established an award to focus on one of his major interests-nurturing the careers and talents of young forensic psychologists. This award is given for demonstration of significant early career achievement in forensic psychology or related fields of law.


Anyone wishing to nominate a candidate should send a letter detailing the nominee’s contributions to psychology and law, and a copy of the nominee’s vita, to the current president-elect of the American Academy of Forensic Psychology

You may consider limiting the number of supporting letters to only a few. The letter(s) of nomination should simply support the candidate’s record; the letters themselves do not serve as the merit basis for the award.

The deadline for nominations is Midnight EST on November 30 of the year preceeding the AP-LS meeting at which the award will be presented, and the recipient will be recognized at AP-LS the following year.

Saleem Shah Award Recipients

2024 Colleen Berryessa
2023 Lauren Kois
2022 Ashley Batastini
2021 L. Maaike Helmus
2020 Jeff Kukucka
2019 Stephane Shepherd
2018 Cynthia Najdowski
2017 Jessica Salerno
2016 Tess Neal
2015 Jay Singh
2015 Nicholas Scurich
2014 Lindsay Malloy
2013 Martin Sellbom
2012 Maria Hartwig
2011 Jodi Viljoen
2010 Monica Miller
2009 Samuel Sommers
2008 Christian Meissner
2007 Candice Odgers
2005 Kevin Douglas
2004 Jodi Quas
2003 Jennifer Skeem
2002 Eric Silver
2001 John Edens
2001 Randy Salekin
2000 Margaret Bull Kovera
2000 Richard Leo
1999 No recipient
1998 Bette Bottoms
1997 Susan Limber
1996 Randy Borum
19951 Jim Ogloff
19951 Steve Hart