Treatment programmes

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Treatment programmes

It is becoming increasingly clear that much of the work done within the prison service helps to reduce the likelihood of reoffending. There are two different programmes which attempt to reduce recidivism:

  • Behaviour modification
  • Anger management
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Behaviour modification

Ayllon and Azrin (1968) developed this programme.

The principles of operant and classical conditioning have been applied in behaviour therapy and behaviour modification techniques where desirable behaviour is reinforced and undesirable behaviour is extinguished - selective reinforcement. (Skinner)

Behaviour in prisons can be modified by following a strict and explict regime of reward for good behaviour, such as cooperation and compliance. This would usually happen in the form of a token economy system which is based on the behaviourist principle of positive reinforcement. If the person is rewarded for good behaviour, the likelihood of this behaviour being repeated is heightened.

Tokens are secondary reinforcers that have no value, but can be exchanged for primary reinforcers - rewards. The rewards must genuinely reward the person - eg, cigarettes. When used in prisons, many of the programmes also use negative reinforcement (such as removing a TV) and punishment, in order to reduce undesirable behaviour, such as non-compliance and agression.

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Behaviour modification

In relations to crime, the idea behind token economy is that if a criminal's behaviour is learnined in the same way as any other behaviour (ie, through reinforcement/punishment - Skinner) then these inappropriate behaviours can be 'unlearned' in the same way.

The institution will compile a list of desirable behaviours the offender must aquire

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Cullen and Seddon (1981)

AIM: to see if behaviour could be modified through the use of token economies in a young offender institution

METHOD: The boys in the programme were placed on a regime where positive behaviours, such as avoiding confrontations with others were reinforced with tokens that could be exchanged at the institue's shop for items such as confectionary. Undesireable behaviours, such as hostile behaviour, were not reinforced in an effort to bring out extinction.

RESULTS: over the duration of the study, those who were placed on the token economy programme begann to produce socially desirable behaviours

CONC: Techniques based upon the principles of learning can be sucessfuly applied to modify antisocial behaviour

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Evaluation of behaviour modification

  • A strength is that the system of reward is very clear, and so people involved know how it works and what to do to gain credit
  • Some studies show improvement and sometimes recidivism is delayed
  • The effectiveness of such programmes has been questioned, as they are uneffective long term
  • They are criticised on moral grounds, as they involve the manipulation of behaviour and deprive the prisoner of all nonessential comforts at the start of the programme so they can be motivated to behave appropriatly.
  • Blackburn (1993) suggests that behaviour modification systems have little rehabilitative value and simply make it easier to manage behviour, once the prisoner leaves the prison environment, the tokens are no longer and there is no incentive to continue to behave well
  • A combination of behavioural and cognitive therapy, such as anger management, seems to have greater long term sucess, as they give the offender an insight into their behaviour and allow self-regulation, rather than external regulation (relying on someone else to manipulate their behaviour).
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Evaluation of behaviour modification

  • Hobbs and Holt (1976) investigated the effects of token econnomy in three different institutions, with another acting as a control. They found a significant increase in more desirable behaviour than the control, and works for all ages.
  • However, Rice et al found the long term effects were not that favourable, and when released from prison, the desirable behaviours tend to disappear.
  • They are sucessful in changing targeted behaviours in controlled environments, such as prisons. This type of programme requires little training, it's economical and can be carried out by virtually anyone.
  • However, a high degree of commitment is needed for continual implementation. 
  • There are ethical issues associated with this type of treatment in relation to the removal of food, drink, etc as a form of negative reinforcement. Some argue these are actually a right of an offender, not a privilege dependant on behaving in a certain way.
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Anger managment

Based on the concept that a persons anger was the primary cause of their criminal act and that, if the individual can learn to control their anger, rates of recidivism will decrease. Anger management is a cognitive-behavioural technique whereby the individual still experiences the emotion of anger, but does so in a more controlled way. The technique involves learning skills such as self-control and self-monitoring of behaviour and emotions, conflict resolution etc. According to Ainsworth (2000), anger management programmes involve three stages:

  • Cognitive preperation - offenders are asked to analyse their own anger and identify the particular situations that make them angry. They then attempt to analyse their own thought processes during this situation and to recognise why their anger may be percieved to be irrational.
  • Skill aquisition - offenders are taught the skills necessary to help them avoid anger-provoking situations or to help the offender deal with these situations more effectivley. Skills, such as relaxation in order to avoid becoming excessivley aroused, assertivness to help the offender to communicate their point without becoming angry and other skills are taught.
  • Application practice - offenders are given the oppurtunity to apply their newly learnt skills to role play scenarios. This involves the offender acting out the situation which, in the past would've made them violent. The offender uses their skills and recieves feedback from the group and the counsellor.
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Evaluation of anger management

  • Feindler et al (1984) found that, in a group of young offenders, anger management programmes were effective in instilling problem solving and selfcontrol as methods of reducing agressive behaviour.
  • Ainsworth (2000) states anger management is effective in reducing anger within prisons, but only if the programmes are well managed and supported.
  • Law (1997) found the only on individual who had completed an eight-session course showed any benefits compared to the rest of the group.
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