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Three Degrees of Security: Attachment and Forensic Institutions

NCJ Number
Criminal Behaviour and Mental Health Volume: 12 Issue: 2 Dated: 2002 Pages: S31-S45
Gwen Adshead
John Gunn, Pamela J. Taylor, DAvid Farrington, Mary McMurran
Date Published
15 pages
This paper examines the use of attachment theory for understanding management issues in forensic institutions and discusses the relationship between security and violence.
Research data indicate that attachment processes may be useful in understanding the genesis of violence in an individual detained in a secure custodial or therapeutic institution. It can help in understanding why people act violently to others, the problems they pose in hospitals, and in creating truly secure therapeutic spaces. Attachment theory argues that individuals form psychological representations in the mind of attachment figures from childhood. There is a powerful mirroring of language between attachment theory and the language of forensic systems. Care-giving and care-seeking are manifestations of attachment behavioral systems that are aimed at promoting a sense of security in the individual. Forensic institutions also have an aim to promote security. This paper examines abnormal attachment patterns relating them to problems of living in a forensic institution and the relationship between security and violence and describes how pathological attachments influence the relationships between staff and patients in long-term residential secure units, from admission to discharge. It is recommended that forensic institutions need to become a secure base for both staff and residents. Features necessary for the provision of a secure forensic base are outlined. A secure base encourages monitoring, naming, and regulation of negative feelings using a portfolio of therapeutic interventions. References