Forensic Psychology Literature Review
“Anger management has earned face validity as a reasonable treatment alternative for domestic abusers, child abusers, animal abusers, substance abusers, aggressive juveniles, vandals, perpetrators of hate crimes or road rage, and other violent offenders” (Howells, Day, Williamson, Bubner, Jauncey, & Heseltine, 2005, p. 1). Although staff in correctional facilities provide support for rehabilitation, many prison systems seek guidance on how to educate inmates on anger management’s techniques and implementation. Prisons have recently identified anger management as a means for inmates to learn how to cope with being incarcerated and utilize alternative methods to change their thinking patterns and negative behaviors.
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 a current method used to address behaviors where minor steps are reinforced first to complete an activity then, utilized to alter behaviors. 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 a series of sequential steps to create a final action which can be used as a teaching technique for the complex behaviors of inmates. The operant sequences which creates an occurrence of additional responses is done in series. 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 analyze the reasons for anger and resolve their concerns by altering negative behaviors into positive ones.
Incentive programs and approaches to behavioral management in the prison environment are techniques psychologists can use to address behaviors. Methods of rewards and incentives motivate inmates to participate in treatment programs offered in correctional facilities.
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). Some correctional institutions 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 appropriately designed reward system managed properly, would motivate inmates to engage in treatment programs and establish their commitment to enrollment. Several approaches used to positively shape behaviors are: address relevant inmate’s issues, use behavioral interventions to train and redirect inmates and to ensure staff is 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’ anger and displays of 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 tool can be implemented in a prison system to determine how and when a behavior should be 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 during inmates’ daily interactions. The challenges here are compliance. Many inmates fail to or do not want to comply with regulations. However, small verbal cues can be introduced to inmates to control their anger but staff must follow the negative behavior with 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 connecting to their support systems.
Prison systems are complex entities which occasionally may fail to rehabilitate inmates with appropriate skills to survive while incarcerated and in society. To address this issue, alternative methods can be implemented to focus on anger management. Some of the prison psychologists’ alternative training and techniques used are: shaping and chaining, reinforcement schedules, and one-trial learning techniques. Using these approaches within prison systems encourages positive behavior through reinforcements. These approaches implement a clinical mindset towards utilizing effective anger management strategies. In addition, these methods reinforce positive behaviors by extending programs into communities to prevent recidivism.. Implementing shaping and chaining, reinforcement schedules, and one-trial learning techniques to inmate are external conditions of probation or parole, and work in tangent with prosecution programs.