We spend billions on imprisoning the largest proportion of our population than any other nation. Too many of those imprisoned are petty drug offenders. In prison, they some learn how to be more effective criminals and then are turned loose to re-offend. Too many are very young. Petty drug offenders often need CD treatment, not prison. Many are simply supporting the habit that keeps them from a more productive life. However, petty criminals can become hardened career criminals just from the experience of prison. These are facts that have been known for many years. The only thing that keeps us from acting on this knowledge is an uneducated electorate. At the recent APA convention, another expert repeats the message.
Image by Rennett Stowe via Flickr
“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.” Presenting at the American Psychological Association‘s 117th Annual Convention, Dvoskin discussed his upcoming book, “Applying Social Science to Reduce Violent Offending,” which examines why prisons are failing and what needs to change. “Prison environments are replete with aggressive behaviors, and people learn from watching others acting aggressively to get what they want,” Dvoskin said in an interview. 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.””
- You: Curbs on freed violent offenders (news.bbc.co.uk)