Monday, August 10, 2009

A NEW APPROACH TO PRISONS

Physorg - U.S. prisons are too punitive and often fail to rehabilitate, but targeting prisoners' behavior, reducing prison populations and offering job skills could reduce prisoner aggression and prevent recidivism, a researcher told the American Psychological Association.

"The current design of prison systems don't work," said criminal justice expert Joel Dvoskin, PhD, of the University of Arizona. "Overly punitive approaches used on violent, angry criminals only provide a breeding ground for more anger and more violence." . . .
Applying behavior modification and social learning principles can work in corrections, he said. "For example, systematic reinforcement of pro-social behaviors is a powerful and effective way to change behavior, but it has never been used as a cornerstone of corrections," he said.

Also, punishment can be effective in changing behavior, but it only works in the short term and immediately after the unwanted behavior happens, he said. While there is a place for punishment, it should be used in psychologically informed and effective ways. However, punishment should not be one-size-fits-all, Dvoskin said.

"We need to know what may be behind the criminal behavior to know what the best treatment is," he said. "A person who commits crimes when drunk but not when sober is likely suffering from an alcohol problem. Treating the alcohol problem may diminish the criminal behavior.". . .

Finally, bringing work back into prisons can benefit prisoners by teaching them job skills and filling unmet job needs. With the increase in the criminal population and lack of increase in prison staff, "there is not enough supervision to allow prisoners to work and build skills," Dvoskin said. "This makes it very hard to re-enter into the civilian world and increases the likelihood of going back to prison."

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