Treatment and Punishment of Crime

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Behavioural Therapy

  • According to the behaviourist approach behaviour is learnt, therefore criminal behaviour is learnt and a product of problems in the environment. The aim is to change a persons behaviour by manipulating rewards.They rely on a technique called token economy.
  • Tokens have no intrinsic value and are secondary reinforcers, they can be exchanged for primary reinforcers.
  • Punishment such as removing privileges is also used along side positive reinforcers to reduce unwanted behaviours such as aggression.
  • Hobbs and Holt (1976) recorded effects of token economy on young delinquents in three institutions, with a fourth acting as a control. Behaviours such as obeying rules were rewarded. The study showed an increase in the desired behaviours compared to the control group.
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Behavioural Therapy

  • Other studies have also shown that token economy works on adult prisoners though Ross and Mackay (1976) reported a deterioration in behaviour when the programme was used with delinuqent girls.
  • They work quickly and are effective at changing behaviours in controlled conditions. It requires little training and can be administered by anyone.
  • A high level of commitment is needed by all members of staff in order for it to be affective, as well as this prisoners must feel motivated to collect tokens.
  • Some people argue that making people earn basic rights is unethical.
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Cognitive Therapy

  • Based on the belief that offenders develop antisocial patterns of reasoning that make them believe that criminal behaviour makes sense. It focuses on changing the thinking and reasoning patterns that accompany criminal behaviour, by teaching them new ways to think about themsevles and their actions.
  • They aim to identify and change cogntivie deficits such as; problems with impulsive behaviour, poor moral reasoning, a lack of empathy and a lack of self-analysis.
  • The first task is to help the offender recognise their cognitive deficits and then help them change their thinking and behaviour with cognitive skills.
  • Two programmes used by the prison service in England and Wales are Enhanced Thinking Skills (ETS) and Reasoning and Rehabilitation (R&R).
  • For ETS inmates attend 20 two hour group work sessions that are compulsory. Skills learnt include thinking before acting and to consider all factors, group exercises and role play demonstrate the value of stopping and thinking to help understand consequences.
  • For R&R, groups of about 6 offenders attend molecules, each session teaches sub skills building on previous learning, based on the premise that criminals are under socialised, lacking the values, attitudes, reasoning and social skills.
  • The module covers areas such as creative thinking and value enhancement.
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Cognitive Therapy

  • Cognitive approaches treat the cause rather than the behaviour, so should have lasting effects to reduce reoffending.
  • A review of the probation services in england and wales, the review demonstrated that male offenders in treatment groups reoffended less than those in control groups (Hollin et al 2004).
  • Some studies find both ETS and R&R effective and others find benefits with one approach. Research has shown low risk offenders gain little from cognitive treatments. These courses work best with medium and high risk offenders.
  • Cann et al (2003) found that although reconviction rates were lower after one year, this effect had been lost after two years. These programmes were developed for male prisoners, and have been found to be ineffective with women (Cann et al 2000), this is explained by the absense of cognitive deficits related to crime committed by women.
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Zero Tolerance

  • Zero tolerance has its roots in an approach nicknamed 'broken window' developed by Kelling and Wilson (1982). According to them a neighbourhood could degenerate because of one broken window, which creates a social norm. It would lead to a downward spiral of criminal behaviour, law abiding citizens would leave the area and crime would increase.
  • Zero tolerance suggests this can be stopped by tackling minor crimes.
  • Police commisioner for New York, William Bratton (1990) used a zero tolerance approach with the use of 7,000 extra officers. In three years the crime rates dropped by 37% and homicides by 50%. It is questionable as to whether this was caused by the policy or the increase in officers.
  • Other studies support the policy, Ulmer et al (2000) found a 9% decrease in accident rates amongst young drivers in Florida when a zero tolerance policy was introduced.
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