Classification and Treatment by Moral Development Level

Murder, She Wrote, continued

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


It is the writer’s belief that a values programme is no panacea for rehabilitation, but that it should be an essential ingredient of correctional treatment. Obviously if a man’s reasoning capacity is severely limited, his moral reasoning cannot develop beyond a low stage. If he has pychological troubles, a values programme will not remove them: thus, although it has been shown that the higher a person’s moral judgement the less frequently does he indulge in maladaptive aggression, it was also found that people at any stage may act aggressively to others even though they know beforehand that they will inevitably thereby penalize themselves.

It would, therefore, appear to be advisable to supplement a values programme with additional components to ensure its effectiveness. Some components which could be an integral part of the programme will now be briefly reviewed.


A variety of structured therapeutic experiences would both increase residents’ morale and give them specific learning opportunities which might otherwise not arise at all or, if they did, might have to be overlooked because of the necessity for dealing with other problems arising simultaneously.

The experiences could include exercises, simulations, and games to develop social and reasoning skills, and to test out various roles, strategies and attitudes. Such experiences would be aimed at raising the degree of residents’ competence in dealing with the difficulties of everyday life on the street which involve problems of values.


Many residents have used drugs and excitement to get some sort of kick out of life and then resorted to similar means in attempting to calm themselves down again. The external stimuli on which they rely are often dangerous, illegal or both. Therefore, it seems worthwhile to introduce residents to techniques of consciousness raising and relaxation which at least have the merit of legality. Such techniques include sensory awareness exercises, guided phantasy, transcendental meditation, biofeedback training, and encounter group work. The personal growth attainable by these means is likely to result in shifts in values, so the exercises should be part of the values programme. Because many of the techniques would be disconcertingly novel to some members of staff, before they are introduced there should be an Institute-wide programme of familiarization.


After encouraging unit members to examine their values through structured experiences and to get more in touch with their feelings through consciousness raising and relaxation, they can

take the next step, examining the motives which underline their acceptance of particular values. This can be done by using the numerous techniques of psychodrama. Here OCI’s sophisticated television facility could be put to full and proper use. For example, the editing facility would enable a protagonist to enact several aspects of himself, each role being videotaped and finally edited so that all his selves finally appeared on the screen together. Both members of the media staff have some experience of psychodrama.


As mentioned in Sub-section 3.5, small group therapy is an essential part of a values programme. Self-disclosure in groups would be directed particularly at showing people that their motives are not unique and that the sky does not fall when the motives underlying their value system are revealed. Confrontation in groups can be facilitated by videorecording. The writer has found that playing back the tape of an entire psychotherapy session has little value, but instant replay of significant interaction may be very helpful. After three weeks practice it becomes quite easy for a therapist to make unobtrusive recordings of the group using Portapack videotape equipment. This, and not the elaborate studio facilities, should be used for group work.


To encourage awareness of the ways in which value judgements determine most aspects of our lives, groups would be formed to discuss current events, social problems, the arts and leisure activities. A conscious attempt would be made to enlarge the range of residents’ interests, because much anti-social activity seems to stem from boredom. The membership of discussion groups would cut across that of the psychotherapy groups in order to increase the variety of viewpoints to which each resident would be exposed.


It is impossible to know whether a treatment programme is of any use unless there are clearly defined goals for each resident and progress towards them is measurable. The superordinate goal for each resident would be to demonstrate that he has learned to think and function at one stage higher at least than when he entered the programme. His initial and final stages would be determined by observation of his daily life, and by a standardized test. Progress to intermediate goals would be measured by means of the rating system being devised by OCI’s Chief Psychologist, Dr. R. M. Reynolds.

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