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Reforming Punishment: Psychological Limits to the Pains of Imprisonment

NCJ Number
Craig Haney
Date Published
408 pages
Based on an extensive literature review on the effects of imprisonment as well as the author's own observations in evaluating conditions of confinement in numerous maximum-security prisons throughout the United States, this book identifies prison policies that go beyond imposing punishment in inflicting psychological harm that aggravates criminogenic needs, thus undermining rehabilitative efforts.
The author makes clear in the book's preface that his analysis of the psychological harms caused by certain prison conditions is not intended to be a critique of the use of imprisonment per se or as a recommendation that imprisonment should not be retained as an essential component of a rational strategy of crime control. The focus of the book is on the excesses of prison conditions and inmate management that cause detrimental psychological harm that undermines positive behavioral development. The book's review of contemporary psychological analyses of criminal behavior emphasizes the psychological and physical abuses, as well as the contexts of disadvantage, both physical and social, that underlie harmful and dangerous behaviors. These criminogenic factors can be aggravated when psychological harm and stressful conditions persist in prison. Instead, prison conditions and programs must be tailored to criminogenic needs through humane conditions, respectful management policies, and proven treatment programs. Given that controlled confinement is punishment in itself, security policies should focus on ensuring the safety of inmates and the public. The details of the psychological research and corrections evaluations that support this analysis of imprisonment are discussed in the book's chapters on "Psychology and the Prison Form," "Prison as Criminogenic Context," and "Using Psychology to Limit Prison Pain." Chapter notes and author and subject indexes