Forensic Psychology Literature Review
August 13, 2018
Dr. Samantha Hickman
Forensic Psychology Literature Review
Prison inmates fluctuate in demographics levels; mainly, in education. The prison staff are comprised of professional psychologists, clinicians, correction officers, and medical personnel. Although, it appears, by their support, that inmates are being rehabilitated, prison systems fail to bring about a social change in creating inmates awareness of techniques and education to confront issue of anger management.
This literature review will present how prison staff psychologists can educate correctional workers to implement shaping and chaining, reinforcement schedules, and one-trial learning techniques to inmates. In addition, it will demonstrate how psychologists and corrections can apply these techniques as positive strategies towards anger management. Lastly, this review will address facilities current use and effectiveness of these learning concepts.
Shaping and Chaining
Shaping and chaining is the method used to devise behaviors where minor steps are reinforced first to complete an activity then utilized to alter behaviors as the technique. way to explain complex behaviors Boundless Psychology (2016), stated that “Shaping is a method of operant conditioning by which successive calculations of a target behavior are reinforced” (p. 221, para. 3). As a result, shaping is what is learned when a person commits a negative act and receives corrective feedback. According to Schunk (2016, p. 4), “Chaining is the process of producing or altering several of the variables that serve as stimuli for future responses”. It consists of combining series of sequential steps to create a final action which can be used as a teaching technique for the complex behaviors of inmates. It is a series of operant sequences which creates an occurrence of additional responses. The shaping and chaining concept is intertwined as it involves breaking down multiple steps to achieve new behaviors. When introducing inmates to these concepts, the objective is to govern the reasons for anger and resolve their concerns by changing negative behaviors into positive ones. In Serin’s ; Hanby’s 2009 literature review, Offender Incentives and Behavioral Management Strategies, it discussed incentive programs and approaches to behavioral management in the prison environment. The article found that properly structured and operated programs, rewarded inmates for appropriate behavior which motivated inmates to participate in treatment programs. Additionally, the study determined that incentives were given in forms such as money or tokens. Systemic incentives were also favored as to receive various privileges as extra phone time. Both incentives had shown they were effective in non-correctional settings such as drug and alcohol treatment and mental health treatment facilities. Initially, when an incentive based system was formally introduced into a correctional facility, there were few behavioral prison settings; therefore, minimal improvements in inmate behavior were observed or documented.
According to Serin & Hanby (2009), “Although, shaping and changing addresses anger management through positive reinforcement techniques, many treatment programs continue to respond with disciplinary measures against inmates who violate institutional regulations or program rules” (p. 4). Correctional institutions usually do not give incentives as rewards for positive behavior. Instead, they often impose punishments for negative behavior such a denial of privileges; phone, television, outside or in some cases, visitation. An appropriate designed reward system, managed appropriately, would motivate inmates to engage in treatment programs to establish committed relationships. Approaches to positively shape behaviors are: to address relevant inmate’s issues, use behavioral interventions to train and redirect inmates, and to ensure staff are correctly implementing method and techniques. These systems and approaches are essential to ensure correction facilities equip their staff with the appropriate education and training on techniques to deter inmates’ negative behavior.
“A reinforcement schedule is a tool in operant conditioning that allows the trainer to control the timing and frequency of reinforcement to elicit a target behavior” (Boundless, 2016, p 210). This model can be implemented in a prison system to determine how and when a behavior is followed by a reinforcer. In 2011, Burdon, De Lore, and Prendergast directed a research study on the development and application of positive behavioral reinforcements in prison systems. According to their findings, reinforcement schedules in prison attempts to connect positive and negative reinforcements in conjunction with inmates behaviors. As a result, “…correctional staff are regularly responsible to manage angry or frustrated inmates who are not motivation or non-compliant” (Burdon, De Lore, et al., p. 41). Therefore, it is vital to provide psychologists with tools to instruct officers and clinical staff to effectively manage prison inmates when they present anger issues and negative behaviors.
One Trial Learning Techniques
One-trial learning is a method of classical conditioning which is impulsive and does not require deliberate thinking. The learners are often unreceptive and have difficulty with managing multiple stimuli and their connectivity. Rather than failing to connect to them all, a few stimuli are selected and connected to whereby responses are generated for needed connections. To educate correctional staff, prison psychologists prepare them to transfer these learning techniques transparently to inmates through verbal cues to inmates in their daily interactions. The challenges here are compliancy. Many inmates fail to or do not want to comply with regulations. However, if small verbal cues are introduced to inmates to control their anger, they must be followed by and subjection to consequences. As an example, if an inmate becomes irate and causes chaos in the television room, the inmate could lose television privileges. One-trial learning techniques may be implemented in prison systems by incorporating direct and immediate consequences to control inmates outbursts of anger. This method of anger management would be beneficial to inmates and staff during their incarceration. It would also be a useful tool for inmates who are released into society to apply this skill set in their daily lives and interactions with family, community and support systems.
Prison systems are complex entities that often may fail to rehabilitate inmates with appropriate skill sets to survive while incarcerated and released to society. To address this issue, alternative methods can be implemented to focus on anger management. Some of the training and techniques used by prison psychologists are; developing and implementing shaping and chaining, reinforcement schedules, and one-trial learning demonstrate various approaches to anger management therapies. Using these approaches within prison systems, encourages positive behavior through reinforcements. These approaches implement a clinical mindset towards utilizing effective anger management strategies..
Boundless (2016). Schedules of Reinforcement. Retrieved from, https://www.boundless.com/ psychology /textbooks/ boundless-psychology-textbook/learning-7/operant-conditioning-47/schedules-of-reinforcement-200-12735
Boundless (2016). Shaping. Retrieved from https://www.boundless.com/psychology/textbooks /boundless-psychology-textbook/learning-7/operant-conditioning-47/shaping-198-12733/
Burdon, W. M., De Lore, J. S., & Prendergast, M. L. (2011). Developing and Implementing a Positive Behavioral Reinforcement Intervention in Prison-Based Drug Treatment: Project BRITE. Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, 7, 40–50.
Schunk, D. (2016). Learning theories: an educational perspective (7th ed.). Carolina del Norte: Pearson
Serin, R. C. & Hanby, L. J. (2009). Offender Incentives and Behavioural Management Strategies. Ottawa: Correctional Service of Canada, Research Branch.