Organizational Change through Individual Empowerment: Applying Social Psychology in Prisons and Policing

By Sloan, Beverly | Corrections Today, July-August 2015 | Go to article overview

Organizational Change through Individual Empowerment: Applying Social Psychology in Prisons and Policing


Sloan, Beverly, Corrections Today


Organizational Change Through Individual Empowerment: Applying Social Psychology in Prisons and Policing, by Hans Toch, Ph.D., American Psychological Association, Washington, D.C., 186 pp.

In his book Organizational Change Through Individual Empowerment: Applying Social Psychology in Prisons and Policing, Hans Toch, Ph.D., takes the reader through his career as a social psychologist--encompassing the past 60 years of the criminal justice system and the changes that have occurred to help the system move forward. Toch offers a reflection of his life's work as a social psychologist who has worked with law enforcement and correctional staff to help understand and make changes to the behaviors of others for the betterment of society. Toch embraces the concept of "doing psychology," and throughout his career, he has shown others how doing psychology could impact changes within the criminal justice system that would, in turn, also result in positive social impacts.

A graduate of Princeton University, one of Toch's first studies was to look at the effects of violent and nonviolent stereograms --realistic images of violent and nonviolent acts--on law enforcement students. He found that exposure to these stereograms in the classroom allowed students to become predisposed to things that they would otherwise have viewed as unusual or unique. By doing so, the students could really see what was unusual or unique in the field and be better at solving crimes. Toch took this experience and applied it to his work on the 1965 Task Force to Study Violence, which he talks about in his book. The task force developed a classification system of various types of violence and the behaviors of both perpetrators and victims.

Toch also discusses his work with prison reform and prison society. He looks at the interactions between security and offenders, as well as the importance of proper training for those promoted to positions of authority. Douglas Grand and Toch worked together in the 1960s on the New Career Development Project, which he discusses, along with both the positive and negative effects of the project. The project was designed to help get parolees into the workforce and to reduce recidivism. …

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