Positive And Negative Reinforcement In The Prison System

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The American prison system is broken; it is letting down both our citizens and our prisoners. With recidivism rates over 75%, it has been ineffective at reforming wrongdoers into upstanding citizens, leading to an overflowed correctional program and a strained government budget (Zoukis, 2017). The inability of punishment to reduce crime is well established in psychology, yet the reality of the prison system fails to apply these psychological findings, instead vouching for harsher punishment. This forms our prison system into a place to remove unwanted citizens from our society rather than one to reform those getting released. We can provide this rehabilitation through positive and negative reinforcement as it has been successful in reforming both genetically-based and learned behaviors and has been effectively implemented in prisons abroad. Learning theory encapsulates the idea that a behavior is modified based on its consequences, which can be either positive or negative, and crime is no exception. Stimuli can be either reinforcing or punishing. A reinforcing stimulus is one that strengthens the behavior by either presenting (positive) or removing (negative) a given stimulus. A punishing stimulus weakens the behavior through the same process. When committing a crime, a criminal can be rewarded with money, a stolen object, sexual gratification, or the removal of an enemy, all of which are very reinforcing. Learning theory postulates that criminals acquire their behavior in

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