Exploring the Positive Punishment Effect Among Incarcerated Individuals Essays

Exploring the Positive Punishment Effect Among Incarcerated Individuals Essays

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In a quantitative analysis of the effectiveness of incarceration of individuals in preventing crime and especially preventing those particular individuals from repeating crime, Peter Wood concluded that several different mechanisms may in fact contribute to recidivism. Wood acknowledges the work of others in the field that have noted that statistically the experience of being incarcerated increased the likelihood that an individual will commit future criminal behavior. He continues to note the hypotheses of other researchers that such counter-intuitive statistics could be explained by "a theory of defiance" whereby after an individual receives punishment that they feel is unjust or unfair they begin to develop a sense of defiance against the system which later can turn into criminal behavior. A similar explanation is discussed, that of the development of the "gambler's fallacy" where the individual feels that being caught for the crime is a statistical oddity and that since they were recently caught they can safely continue with the crime without worry of being caught within a period of time thereafter. These previous two explanations can be directly tied to the manner in which the legal system operates as an agency of control, most notably the latter explanation; however, Wood does not discuss in depth the sociological aspects of these hypothesis.
Wood's data collection was conducted in a unnamed prison in a southern state, where he surveyed over 700 individuals concerning their length of incarceration, their past incarcerations and how likely they perceived themselves as returning to a life of crime after completing their sentence. The data showed, through bi-variate regressions, that with a p-value of <.000 all measures o...


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...ual may, being submersed in this subculture, develop a new "primary reference group" with habitual offenders who reinforce acts of crime. In line with the social learning theory as the offenders become more integrated within this subculture and the criminal lifestyle they will begin to learn new "definitions about costs and benefits associated with crime." Submersion within this new reference group while incarcerated with other offenders increased the likelihood that on reentry into society that and individual will re-offend. This combined with the punishments that prevails after reentry into society - difficulties getting a job, housing, assistance, disenfranchisement - creates social situation where the culture to which the offender was to reformed into fitting rejects him/her and the culture which promoted criminal activity and recidivism accepts that individual.

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