Classification and Treatment by Moral Development Level

Murder, She Wrote, continued

Classification and Treatment by Moral Development Level, by Dr. G. Harry McLaughlin, continued


In 1971, Kohlberg and his associates set up a moral development programme in one living unit of the Connecticut Women’s Correctional Centre at Niantic State Farm. It appears that the programme has been successful. This section summarizes most of the principles which it incorporates.

It will be noted that none of the principles set out in this section are new to the Ontario Correctional Institute. The few principles which distinguish the Niantic programme from OCI’s milieu therapy are discussed in Section 4.


The moral development programme tries to provide inmates with the following elements of experience which they have missed and which have led to moral retardation:

1) Role-Taking Opportunities. The programme attempts to provide role-taking opportunities through discussion of moral and personal issues in which each individual is encouraged to the others’ points of view.

2) Intellectual Stimulation. An effort is made to encourage logical analyses of situations because a high stage of moral reasoning requires a high stage of logical reasoning.

3) Responsibility. Explicit responsibility for decision making is given to the inmate.

4) Cognitive-Moral Conflict. Discussion of moral and personal dilemmas in small groups and on community policies in the community exposes the individual to other viewpoints and he tends to question and rethink his own standards.

5) Exposure to the Next Stage Up. Inmates at any given stage (except Stage 4) are presented with arguments at the next stage up by other inmates. Group leaders clarify and support inmates’ higher-stage reasoning and present higher-stage reasoning of their own.

6) Living in a Just Community. This element of the programme, perhaps the most important, involves making the unit democratic, giving authority over internal matters, and stressing the responsibility of inmates both individually and collectively.

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