Building Constructive Prison Environments: The Functional Utility of Applying Behavior Analysis in Prisons

By Webb, Lonny R. | The Behavior Analyst Today, Winter 2003 | Go to article overview

Building Constructive Prison Environments: The Functional Utility of Applying Behavior Analysis in Prisons


Webb, Lonny R., The Behavior Analyst Today


The present author evaluated a correctional program that applies the principles of behavior analysis with in a "Supermax" correctional facility that housed 128 adult mate inmates with severe behavior problems. An interdisciplinary team systematically assessed behaviors to be targeted. An individualized program was created for each inmate. Criteria for discharge from this unit were to have completed the assigned programs and to have not engaged in any violations of the rules of prohibited conduct. Data were recorded by correctional staff on problematic behaviors and appropriate behaviors of inmates in this unit. Appropriate behavior was positively reinforced with increasing access to visitors, personal property and negatively reinforced by escaping from the unit upon completion of the assigned program. Results showed a significant decrease from years prior in the rate of misconduct reports and inmate grievances to the administration.

**********

By the end of 2001, there were 2.1 million people incarcerated in America's prisons (Harrison and Beck 2002). In 2000, the National Center for Policy Analysis reported, "an estimated 630,000 inmates were released from prison last year, with an estimated 160,000 of those being violent inmates" (Du Pont 2000). These statistics beg several questions: is it surprising that the United States has surpassed South Africa as Western Civilization's most imprisoned people? What is being done, during the inmates' incarceration, to address antisocial behaviors that are being reinforced in prisons today? What are the maintaining variables that reinforce a person's development of pro-social behaviors? Does the society that imprisons these people recognize that criminal behavior does not simply stop at the entrance or the exit of a correctional facility? What is being done to change the behavior of these inmates into people who will eventually become our neighbors? Over the last twenty years there has been much advancement in the technology of Applied Behavior Analysis. Have these advancements facilitated the building of constructive prison environments? The purpose of this paper is to describe a current program that applies Behavior Analysis in a maximum-security prison setting.

History

Although the national trend toward more stringent sentencing laws is decreasing, prisons are left to deal with a subset of the population that is considered "unteachable". Likewise, "unteachable" was also the term used in the 1950's and 1960's to describe people with severe and profound retardation. It was in the 1960's that Behavior Analysts began to research the field of Mental Retardation and Dual Diagnoses (MR/DD), and today, there are few behaviors that cannot be changed through the systematic manipulation of envirom-nental factors. Also, starting in the 60's and continuing into the early 80's, Behavior Analysts became interested in the application of the principles of behavior analysis in the correctional setting. In 1974, B.F. Skinner spoke out on the issue of how to build constructive prison enviromnents in a "letter to the editor" of the New York Times:

"It is possible for prisoners to discover positive reasons for behaving well rather than the negative reasons now inforce, to acquire some of the behavior which will give them a chance to lead more successful lives in the world to which they will return, to discover that the educational establishment has been wrong in branding them as unteachable and for the first time to enjoy some sense of achievement. But that can only be brought about through positive action."

Most of the groundwork for building Behavior Analytic based constructive prison enviromnents have been outlined in the research emanating from this era in Behavior Analysis. A specific example of this research was undertaken in 1971 by John McKee, a Behavior Analyst, regarding the issue of contingency management in a correctional institution.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Building Constructive Prison Environments: The Functional Utility of Applying Behavior Analysis in Prisons
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.