#1 Posted by JasonR86 (9609 posts) -

Moral Reconation Therapy is the most used psychotherapeutic treatment in jails in America.  The basis for this therapy is that a person who commits crimes doesn't have a fully developed sense of morality.  If they could develop that morality to a higher level they, according to the theory, wouldn't commit crimes when they were in crime-provoking situations.

What do you all think about this therapy?

Here's my take:
I don't think anyone has the right, or the know-how, to create a universally agreed upon definition of morality.  I think that this therapy attempts to do so is arrogant.  Morality is such a subjective term based on so many things (like one's culture) that using it to define the nature of criminality is inherently flawed.  But, my ultimate complaint is that the therapy doesn't account for socioeconomic pressures or cultural or familial upbringing.  It ignores things like poverty, homelessness or unfortunate social support (such as gangs) among many other variables that may affect the likelihood that a person commits a crime.  I don't agree that most criminals have a lack of 'morality', no matter how it is defined, which affects their decision making.  I think criminals have a long history along with unique thinking patterns that affect their decision making.  I think by saying there's a lack of 'morality' is a way for us, the supposed 'normal' people, to feel like criminals are somehow different from us in more ways then just their history and behaviors.  I believe that is a flawed rationale that reflects fantasy more than reality.

Here's some information on the therapy;
 http://www.doc.wa.gov/facilities/cjc/tacomacjc/docs/TCJCTherapy.pdf
 http://www.moral-reconation-therapy.com/mrthistory.html


So, what do the rest of you think?  Do you think this is an appropriate therapy for criminals?

#2 Posted by avantegardener (1109 posts) -

VIDEO GAMES!

#3 Edited by JasonR86 (9609 posts) -
@avantegardener: 
 
OFF-TOPIC!
 
-Not you necessarily, though you are, but the board I'm posting on.
#4 Posted by avantegardener (1109 posts) -
@JasonR86 said:
" @avantegardener:  OFF-TOPIC  -Not you necessarily, though you are, but the board I'm posting on. "
To offer a more sober response, yes I think any form of rehabiltion is valid, if people chose to behave in away that is detramental to society. Oddly enough, I do actually think some sectors of 'society' are wired completely differently and have a very different idea of right and wrong, this is caused by a number of factors including nature and nurture. So yes I think 'corrective' therapy to bring people around to the tradional view of morality is good thing.
#5 Posted by kittencake (99 posts) -

hmm. rather than 'morality', which as you said, is totally subjective, i think what many criminals lack is empathy. perhaps if they could be encouraged to empathise more with the victim of their crime they would be less likely to offend again?
 
obviously this doesn't apply to every crime, or every criminal. it's much more complicated than that.

#6 Posted by HandsomeDead (11863 posts) -

The idea that there's a concrete good and bad is a joke in the first place. Morality is a personal thing so this just seems like the first step to some kind of brainwashing course. In b4 America is evil because that's not what I'm getting at.

#7 Posted by blueduck (964 posts) -

Every crime is different and committed for different reasons. Labeling morality or anything as the main cause of crime is stupid.

#8 Edited by Kyreo (4600 posts) -

Have you not seen A Clockwork Orange?  That shit doesn't work. 
 
But in all seriousness, most criminals are very intelligent have a level of morality and choose to over look it. 
 
@blueduck said:

" Every crime is different and committed for different reasons. Labeling morality or anything as the main cause of crime is stupid. "
Also, this is a very good point.
#9 Posted by ViciousAnchovy (725 posts) -

Even though morality is largely subjective, societies are formed for the reason of enforcing laws based on social norms. If someone has committed a crime that landed him or her in prison, chances are they could stand to have the social values of the society they're in reinforced.

#10 Posted by Ben99 (1135 posts) -

I think jail time is good enough to make a criminal think twice before doing something stupid 

#11 Posted by Video_Game_King (36062 posts) -

Huh? What about robbing out of economic necessity, or killing somebody in self defense? I'm pretty sure the people in those situations have a well developed sense of morality.

#12 Posted by Napalm (9020 posts) -

I think it's a bit close minded to think morality is one hundred percent subjective. I think we can all agree it is against our morals to murder another human being, commit crimes against innocent people, and emotional disrupt others into a damaging state. "Morality" isn't as subjective as this topic is leading people to believe. I think you are confusing morality with something else.

#13 Posted by TheHT (10915 posts) -
@HandsomeDead said:
" The idea that there's a concrete good and bad is a joke in the first place. Morality is a personal thing so this just seems like the first step to some kind of brainwashing course. In b4 America is evil because that's not what I'm getting at. "
 
Well, brainwashing to align their morality with the law. That's essentially the concrete good and bad in society.
 
As for the process, if all it consists of is talking in a circle about feeeeeeeelings, seems like it could be ineffective anyways. Depends on whether or not the criminal wants to change or not. Unless of course it's actual brainwashing, in which case what they want doesn't matter.
 
The goal doesn't seem to be to address all issues that contribute to crime, but to subtly mold their morality in such a way that it trumps any other inclination to commit illegal acts.
#14 Posted by Rasgueado (710 posts) -

I would agree with the point of view of the OP, at least insofar as I do not believe that any one theory/therapy is correct. This type of therapy may in fact work for certain types of criminals who fall into a particular type. The OP is correct in stating that this type of therapy does not account for many of the reasons that cause crime which are beyond purely cognitive. For many people across the globe, crime is a means of survival when individuals/groups are thrust into environments that provide them with no reasonable alternatives.  
 
Equity of access to opportunity is as much a cause of crime as any of the others; do not get me wrong however, I am not so naive as to believe this is the sole cause for criminal behavior. I do believe it plays a significant factor toward influencing individuals who might otherwise be reasonable people into committing criminal acts. Even further I also believe this is what creates a cultural of crime in certain communities. How widespread this effect is? I'm not in a position to say with any certainty however... I'm sure there are some sociologists out there performing all kinds of studies on the topic as we speak though.

#15 Edited by melcene (3056 posts) -
@JasonR86 said:

" Moral Reconation Therapy is the most used psychotherapeutic treatment in jails in America.  The basis for this therapy is that a person who commits crimes doesn't have a fully developed sense of morality.  If they could develop that morality to a higher level they, according to the theory, wouldn't commit crimes when they were in crime-provoking situations.What do you all think about this therapy?  

   I would have preferred to know more about the therapy itself.  Not the theory of it, but the execution -  HOW do they get people to have a better sense of morality? 

 Here's my take:I don't think anyone has the right, or the know-how, to create a universally agreed upon definition of morality.  I think that this therapy attempts to do so is arrogant.  Morality is such a subjective term based on so many things (like one's culture) that using it to define the nature of criminality is inherently flawed.    

 While I understand what you're saying and agree to an extent, laws across the US are generally the same.  So I guess the issue there is that they are using laws to define morality.  But isn't that part of what morals are about?  Whether to observe socially agreed upon laws.   

 But, my ultimate complaint is that the therapy doesn't account for socioeconomic pressures or cultural or familial upbringing.  It ignores things like poverty, homelessness or unfortunate social support (such as gangs) among many other variables that may affect the likelihood that a person commits a crime.  I don't agree that most criminals have a lack of 'morality', no matter how it is defined, which affects their decision making.  I think criminals have a long history along with unique thinking patterns that affect their decision making.  I think by saying there's a lack of 'morality' is a way for us, the supposed 'normal' people, to feel like criminals are somehow different from us in more ways then just their history and behaviors.  I believe that is a flawed rationale that reflects fantasy more than reality.  

   I see what you're saying here too, but I think that morality IS looked at differently among people of different socioeconomic or cultural groups.  To look at some of my own family (who are a bunch of ignorant, welfare, government-sucking scrubs), their ideas of morality are totally messed up, but it's intertwined with so many other things.  For example, they believe that defrauding the government for money is acceptable because in their minds, the government owes that to them for being oppressed (mind you, they're not black, they're hispanic).  It seems to me that while some people may truly be morally bankrupt, there are others out there who simply convince themselves that morality is actually on their side.   
 
Perhaps this therapy does take these things into consideration.  After all, part of the issues with socioeconomic and cultural groups is identifying self-worth, responsibility, etc.  One of the links you posted did say that it is "designed to enhance self-image, promote growth of a positive, productive identity, and facilitate the development of higher stages of moral reasoning."  These things are going to assist people from anywhere along the spectrum.

 Here's some information on the therapy;   

 http://www.doc.wa.gov/facilities/cjc/tacomacjc/docs/TCJCTherapy.pdf   

 http://www.moral-reconation-therapy.com/mrthistory.html  

 So, what do the rest of you think?  Do you think this is an appropriate therapy for criminals? "

I found it interesting to learn (based on the two links given) that my local jail.. oh I"m sorry, Community Justice Center... uses this.  Especially considering, as you brought up, socioeconomic and cultural pressures play such a large role, and certainly those are big factors in my region.  Otherwise, I think only time will tell.  I hope that it would work, but I'm skeptical.  Too many people out there just really don't give a shit, and that's why we have such an awful recidivism rate.  But if we can find something that does work for a fair amount of the incarcerated population, wouldn't it be worth trying?  Certainly prison, by itself, isn't the best thing we can come up with. 
 
@Ben99 said:
" I think jail time is good enough to make a criminal think twice before doing something stupid  "
Recidivism rates would definitely disagree with you.
#16 Posted by JasonR86 (9609 posts) -
@melcene: 
 
You are right, I probably should have done a better job highlighting how this therapy works.  The big emphasis of this therapy is on cognitive restructuring (or changing thinking patterns in order to change behaviors), psycho-education, utilizing negative and positive reinforcements that may lead to more functional behaviors and removing negative and positive reinforcements that are affecting the criminal behavior, sensitizing new and more functional stimuli and desensitizing old and maladaptive stimuli (it's a technique that revolves around classical conditioning).
 
That all sounds well and good but there's a catch.   This therapy is based on cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) theory.  All of the things I listed above are done in nearly every CBT program.  But, each CBT program has a leaning it basis these technique around.  For example, CBT depression therapies do all of the things I listed above but have a leaning toward building hope and a positive outlook within the client in order to overcome the depression.  This is why I focused so heavily on the theory of this program.  That theory is what the program, despite its techniques, will focus on.
 
So, coming at it from that angle my criticism comes from the ethical and philosophical standpoint looking at the theory of the therapy.  The techniques are fine.  It's the theory that is emphasized behind the use of these techniques that bothers me.  This is an old therapy that has been in use for a long time.  The fact that we have so many repeat offenders tells me that criminality isn't based around some idea of morality that this program might, or might not, get at.  I think criminality is much more complex than that.
 
I think, in order to address criminality, more aspects need to be addressed besides the criminal him/herself.  The environment many criminals live in, the social structures within those environments, the care and opportunities afforded to lower income families, all of these things and so much more need to be addressed as well as the behaviors, cognitions, and emotions of the offender. 
#17 Posted by beej (1674 posts) -
@Ben99
I think jail time is good enough to make a criminal think twice before doing something stupid 
I must ask why we have so many repeat offenders then.
#18 Posted by Ben99 (1135 posts) -
@beej said:
" @Ben99
I think jail time is good enough to make a criminal think twice before doing something stupid 
I must ask why we have so many repeat offenders then. "
society and stigma is a major cause for a relapse . 
#19 Posted by beej (1674 posts) -
@Ben99 said:
" @beej said:
" @Ben99
I think jail time is good enough to make a criminal think twice before doing something stupid 
I must ask why we have so many repeat offenders then. "
society and stigma is a major cause for a relapse .  "
well then it appears that we agree, jail isn't enough to "make someone think twice" interestingly enough, it was never really supposed to be a punishment. 
#20 Posted by Madzackmom (1 posts) -

Ok well at the risk of sounding uneducaTed on this subject let me tell you that I am very uneducated in this field. I am simply an observer of this book" how to escape your prison" being used to rehabilitate my lifelong friend in particular. Ok that being said I can now tell you my general thought on this book. I think it's awful and advised my friend to not even read the darn thing. I mean it is completely negative # 1 and completely generalized. I mean I dont know if any of you have read the exact book I quoted above but it is basically lumping every one into one category and saying you are all the same. No they are not. It is pure brainwashing if you ask me. It is detrimental to my friend in particular due to the fact that he is not going to be any better due to studying these ridiculous methods. He has already overcome his personal demons and this book is so clearly stereo typing people and in this case my friends, steering him in a regressive direction compared to where he has already made huge improvement. Yet he is required to complete all these steps and I believe it is having a majorly negative effect on his progress so I will assist him in going thru the motions telling them what they want to hear to get this over and done with. This makes me sick all the $ going for this that could be put to something worthwhile and the damage it will ultimately cause for people like my friend. Big DISAGREE here. Favorite quotes "math dont lie people do" "2 can keep a secret as long as one is dead"

#21 Posted by Veektarius (4620 posts) -

@Madzackmom: You will sound more educated if you provide proper context for statements, i.e., explain the premise of the book you're criticizing, and then separate your thoughts on it into paragraphs.

IRT: I see nothing morally wrong with attempting to indoctrinate people with values such as "Killing is bad" and "Stealing is bad". The more controversial the values are, the more controversial the therapy is, but all in all if you turn a violent criminal into a peaceful hippy... well, I hate hippies, but I hate violent criminals a lot more.

I agree with others who challenge the central premise of the argument, however, that the therapy either does not attack the true cause of crime, or will be ineffective in doing so. If we are to argue that criminals are not sufficiently morally developed, this is likely a consequence of socialization. In other words, they weren't raised well. It seems unlikely that a mature adult can be "re-raised" in a prison.

#22 Posted by believer258 (11668 posts) -

@Ben99 said:

I think jail time is good enough to make a criminal think twice before doing something stupid

...er, no.

On topic, every single person is different. Every criminal is different. Parallels and comparisons can sometimes be drawn but at the end of the day two different people are two different people. I would hardly say that there's any sort of universal solution to getting a criminal to stop committing crimes. Sometimes, all they really need is for someone to sit down and listen to their story, and to continue to sit down and listen to them, and softly help them in turn when they need it. Or, sometimes, you'll come across someone who just doesn't give a flying fuck about any punishment, talk, or therapy they receive and will immediately go back to what they were doing when they get out.

As for "moral reconation therapy", no I don't think that it will work universally. Maybe every now and then, but not all the time.

#23 Posted by PeasantAbuse (5138 posts) -

This thread is the fourth result if you google Moral Reconation Theory.

#24 Posted by thomasnash (539 posts) -

@ViciousAnchovy: Well then that's not a case of an underdeveloped "sense" of morality or anything, that means that for whatever reason the criminal doesn't feel he has sufficient stake in the society to be bound by its rules. This therapy isn't going to do anything about those causes, nor will any generalised treatment be effective on every case because those reasons are so diverse.

#25 Posted by Harkat (1100 posts) -

While there is no objective "right" or "wrong" written in the cosmos, once you have a goal, there are OBJECTIVELY good and bad ways of reaching that goal. If, for example, the goal is keeping people alive, happy and free, kidnapping or killing someone is an OBJECTIVELY bad way of maintaining that goal. We attribute this goal to what we call "morality".

It's feasible to me that many criminals have a lacking understanding or awareness of what reaches the goal and what doesn't. Societal and Economic factors can make it much harder to be moral, and this should absolutely be considered, but strengthening a sense of morality, provided that moral system is sound, is a good thing regardless. It may make a poor person withstand the strong pressure towards crime, and it'll deter the rich from being so selfish that they'll commit crimes for their own luxury.

Now of course, America's moral system may be back asswards, but the idea of teaching people "better morals" isn't something I'm necessarily against.