PY4 Forensic Psychology - Punishment and Treatment


Criminality can be seen as a disorder which requires treatment, the aim of which being to prevent reoffending; or criminal behaviour is seen as an action which needs punishing to prevent both the criminal themselves & others from committing the same sentence.
Cavadino + Dignan (1997) suggest there are several justifications for punishment.
1.) Deterrence – an unpleasant experience serves to prevent the behaviour in the future.
2.) Reform – experiences of punishment changes individuals, so they do not report the behaviour in the future.
3.) Incapacitation – punishment prevents the individuals from committing further crimes by e.g. removing them from society to prevent reoffending or harming the public.
4.) Retribution – punishment fits the crime, society gets a kind of revenge on the offender. Serious crime results in a serious punishment e.g. murder = life sentence/death sentence.

1: Custodial Sentencing.
In 2010 it was reported that over 85,000 people in the UK were in prison. As the population rises, considerable strain is put upon resources, leading to overcrowding, as well as accusations of inhumane conditions and in extreme cases riots. Therefore its important for the government to know whether or not prison act as an effective deterrent for criminals, and lead to reduction in crime in order to justify their use.
Recidivism – the rate at which offenders released from prison will go to reoffend & be reconvicted. In England & Wales recidivism rates vary between 54%-70% depending on the type of offender or even length of follow up. The statistics suggest that prison does not have a punishing effect on the offenders and may actually encourage them to commit more crimes.
There have been attempts to lower the recidivism rates for offenders by implementing punishment-oriented regimes. Aim of these is to make prison so aversive as to deter ex-prisoners from reoffending.
UK – introduced a scheme called “short, sharp, shock” in the 1980’s & “boots camps” -> American Concept – Involving a short period of incarceration in a strict military environment, with a rigid daily schedule of hard labour, drill & physical training.
Mackenzie + Shaw (1990) compared with offenders sentenced to traditional prisons, those who went to boot camps were more positive about their prison experiences and their future and held more pro-social attitudes.
Mackenzie + Sourayal (1995) also reported a range of positive outcomes for the boot camp group, such as being drug free, physically healthy, believing the regime had helped them & an overall positive effect on their families. Behaviourists would explain this as positive reinforcement to encourage a positive behaviour. H! It should be noted that the types of offenders considered suitable for boot camp tended to be those who were convicted of non-violent crimes, and had less serious criminal histories. Therefore punishment may not be appropriate for all types of offenders.


·         It could be argued that the traditional method of incarcerating prisoners as punishment & deterrent has been shown to be ineffective. After all, prisons have been around


No comments have yet been made