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TOKEN ECONOMY STRATEGIES IN CRIMINAL INSTITUTIONS

NCJ Number
63384
Journal
British Journal of Criminology Volume: 19 Issue: 4 Dated: SPECIAL ISSUE (OCTOBER 1979) Pages: 373-383
Author(s)
J HALL
Date Published
1979
Length
11 pages
Annotation
THIS PAPER CONSIDERS TOKEN ECONOMY AS A PRACTICAL BEHAVIOR MODIFICATION TECHNIQUE IN THE PRISON ENVIRONMENT AND OFFERS SUGGESTIONS FOR ITS IMPLEMENTATION.
Abstract
A TOKEN ECONOMY IS A PARTICULAR FORM OF BEHAVIOR MODIFICATION PROGRAM IN WHICH THE MAIN VEHICLE OF REINFORCEMENT IS A 'TOKEN' LINKED SYSTEMATICALLY TO A RANGE OF BACK-UP REFERENCES. THE PRACTICE SHOULD NOT BE USED IN AN INSTITUTIONAL SETTING TO CONTROL UNDESIRABLE BEHAVIOR AND PRODUCE CONFORMITY, WHICH IS INCOMPATIBLE WITH REHABILITATIVE GOALS. THE INSTITUTIONAL SETTING AND AIMS SHOULD BE CONSIDERED PRIOR TO ADOPTING ANY TOKEN ECONOMY, AND IT SHOULD NOT COMPETE WITH OR DISPLACE ALREADY OPERATING SYSTEMS OF PRIVILEGES. THE TOKENS SHOULD BE THE MAIN AGENT OF REINFORCEMENT IN THE OVERALL MANAGEMENT POLICY, AND THE PROGRAM SHOULD INCLUDE ALL OR MOST OF THE INMATES OF A WING OR UNIT. THE UNIQUE ADVANTAGE OF A TOKEN ECONOMY IS THAT BY CREATING A MINIATURE SELF-CONTAINED ECONOMIC SYSTEM, MANIPULATIONS OF CONTINGENCIES CAN BE CARRIED OUT TO GREAT DETAIL. SETTING THE OVERALL GOALS OR AIMS IN THE INITIAL STEP, IN WHICH THE RESIDENT'S PROBABLE FUTURE LIFE STYLE SHOULD BE TAKEN INTO ACCOUNT. GOALS SHOULD BE AGREED UPON INITIALLY BY THE PRISONERS, OFFICERS, AND ADMINISTRATORS, AND PERIODICALLY REVIEWED THEREAFTER. THEY SHOULD BE STATED IN OBJECTIVE, MEASURABLE TERMS AND BROKEN DOWN TO CONSTITUTE A CHAIN OR PROGRESSION BETWEEN THE RESIDENTS' PRESENT BEHAVIOR AND THE ULTIMATE LEVEL OF DESIRED BEHAVIOR. THIS KIND OF ECONOMY ALLOWS CHOICE FOR THE RESIDENTS IN SPENDING TOKENS EARNED. MOST REINFORCERS ARE CONSUMABLE COMMODITIES SUCH AS TOBACCO, SWEETS, AND FOOD. PARALLEL USE OF STAFF SOCIAL REINFORCEMENT WITH OFFENDERS MIGHT NOT BE EFFECTIVE, BUT A PEER GROUP SOCIAL REINFORCEMENT REGIME IS DESIRABLE. IF A RANGE OF TARGET BEHAVIORS IS EXPECTED, THERE MUST BE PUBLIC CRITERIA FOR MEASUREMENT AND ACCOUNTABILITY KNOWN TO ALL INVOLVED, SUCH AS A RECORDING SHEET OR NOTICE BOARD WHERE ACHIEVEMENTS ARE POSTED. INDIVIDUAL RESIDENTS VARY IN THE EXTENT TO WHICH THEY WILL RESPOND TO A TOKEN ECONOMY SYSTEM. FAILURE OF SOME PROGRAMS HAS BEEN ATTRIBUTED TO THE HETEROGENEOUS GROUPS INVOLVED. THE STAFF MUST BE ADEQUATELY TRAINED TO BE CAPABLE OF OPERATING THE TOKEN SYSTEM CONSISTENTLY AND CORRECTLY. REFERENCES ARE INCLUDED. (MRK)