WJEC A2 Psychology PY4 - Treatments and Punishments of Crime

Prison punishment and Chemical Castration treatment


Punishment: Prison

1. Punishment: Prison

  • behavioural definition of punishment: "anything that weakens the likelihood of a behaviour being repeated, either through aversive or negative punishment" = prison is the loss of freedom as a consequence of committing a crime (negative)
  • currently 86000 prisoners in the UK and 139 prisons; types of prisons: for males, females, Young Offender Institutions for criminals aged 15 - 21 and also high secure units like Broadmoor for offenders with severe mental health problems

4 categories of prisoners:

  • Category A: prisoners whose escape would be highly dangerous to the public, police or security for the state and for whom the aim to escape must be impossible
  • Category B: prisoners who do not need the highest conditions of security but whom escape must be made very difficult
  • Category C: prisoners who cannot be trusted in open conditions but do not have ability or resources to make a determined escape attempt
  • Category D: prisoners who can reasonably be trusted to serve sentence in open conditions
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Punishment: Prison

Cavadino + Dignan (1997) identified 4 aims of sentencing:

  • 1. Deterrence - unpleasant experience (or threat of) prevents repeated unacceptable behaviour, and an example set to society, deterring others
  • 2. Reform - leads offender to become a changed individual, behaviour not repeated
  • 3. Incapacitation - prevents criminal from committing further crimes by removing them from society (into prison) or by removing means to re-offend
  • 4. Retribution - concept of justice; that a punishment fits the crime and the victim/society should be 'repaid' for the 'damage' received/caused

EVALUATION (Psychological - Psychoticism, Self-Inflicted Harm, Institutionalisation)

(+) Heather (1977)

  • tested sample of prisoners and found 59% reported significant psychological problems and 20% reported psychotic symptoms such as hallucinations, supports
  • BUT... doesn't rehabilitate, may deter from re-offending but could cause someone to re-offend in the future because of psychosis, justice = debatable whether it serves as retribution to cause someone to suffer mentally
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Punishment: Prison

(+) Dooley (1990) + Newton (1980)

  • suicide rate in UK prison population 4 times higher than general population, most at risk are on remand awaiting trial, serving life sentences and young offenders
  • Newton reports that 86% of group of female offenders in a training school self-harmed, possibly as result of environmental culture
  • two studies support that self-inflicted harm does occur in prisons - casts doubt on effect of rehabilitation, may only deter/incapacitate if a prisoner commits suicide, which makes fair retribution questionable

(+) Zimbardo et al (1973)

  • 22 volunteer male students allocated to be prisoners or guards; all deemed to be emotionally stable, responsible and no record of anti-social behaviour
  • supposed to last for 2 weeks but stopped after 6 days = 'prisoners' became submissive and despondent, whilst guards become arrogant and asserted power over prisoners, causing negative psychological effects, supports concept of institutionalisation and psychotic episodes
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Punishment: Prison

  • prison doesn't reform, does incapacitate/deter but effects could cause future re-offending, and the psychological impact questions how fair the retribution is


  • prisoners 13 x more likely to have been in care, 15 x to be HIV positive
  • many prisoners poorly educated, lack basic literacy/numeracy skills REFORM
  • 1/3 of prisoners lose house in prison, 2/3 lose job, 40% lose contact with family DETERRENT? or cause re-offending?
  • between 1991 and 2008, prison population in UK doubled from 42 - 82000 NOT A DETERRENT?, MORE RETRIBUTION/INCAPACITATION?
  • prison pop rising since mid 1940s as has proportion of prison sentences longer than 4 years RETRIBUTION/INCAPACITATION, NOT A DETERRENT?

(+) Advantages

  • protects society from highly dangerous criminals
  • acts as deterrent to others who haven't been in prison
  • better prisons provide opportunities to get qualifications, training programmes
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Punishment: Prison

(-) Disadvantages

  • expensive in short term
  • prisoners could learn criminal behaviours from others - reinforces behaviour
  • prisoners may lose hope as opportunities limited in society after being in prison


Deterrence: (-) 70% recidivism rate in 2 years indicate prison does not deter; (?) 15% first offenders suggest most people won't offend = prison deters + personal morality

Rehabilitation: (-) 70% recidivism suggests prison does not change offenders; (+) increasing opportunities for training programmes (anger management); (-) institutionalisation of long term prisoners and mental health problems doesn't reform

Incapacitation: (+) prisoners cannot commit crimes if imprisoned; (-) many crimes still occur in prison (assault, drug offences, theft)

Retribution: (+) some attempt made to match crime with punishment/sentence lengths; (-) impossible to measure scientifically if criminal feels same 'pain' as victim

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Treatment: Chemical Castration

2. Treatment: Chemical Castration

  • according to Reber (1985), definition of treatment: "any specific procedure designed to cure or lessen severity of a disease or abnormal condition"
  • chemical castration is a hormonal treatment which involves the injection of drugs to reduce a man's testosterone levels
  • 3 drugs that tend to be used: in the US it is MPA (or Depo-Provera), in Canada and several European countries, CPA and prostap is used
  • they work via weekly/monthly implants or depot injections
  • a monthly MPA injection costs approx £3000 per year which doesn't include additional costs involved in supervision/counselling
  • US State of California was the first to introduce chemical castration in 1996, since then 8 other states have adopted its voluntary use where it can be applied to high-risk repeat sex offenders with a victim of younger than 13 years old
  • Britain (2008), Sweden, Iceland, Denmark and Canada now use it
  • chemical castration can be a condition of release from prison, for a set period of time (licence period) and has to be consented to
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Treatment: Chemical Castration


(+) Benefits of chemical castration

  • reduces re-offending (mostly so when in combination with other interventions)
  • might allow some offenders to get out of prison because their risk of offending is reduced
  • reversible unlike surgical castration

(-) Side effects

  • ensure offenders comply with medication as can be serious medical side effects
  • impotence, breast development, nausea, headaches
  • medication non-compliance may be an issue

(+) Losel and Schmucker (2005)

  • from their research evidence, it seems chemical castration is more effective than most other counselling or treatment options 
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Treatment: Chemical Castration

(-) Re-offending

  • effectiveness from other studies suggest between a 50% - 0% drop in re-offending
  • more research is needed on how effective it really is, on the basis of this uncertainty, Australia's government have yet to use it

(-) Only males

  • limited application to sex offenders as only male offenders can be treated
  • also limited as most crimes are not sex offences

(?) Specific punishments/treatments

  • could be starting to tailor specific punishments to specific crimes rather than one size fits all approach = could be future of punishment


Deterrence: (-) if offenders re-offend then it isn't a deterrent (could be 50% recidivism), also reversible

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Treatment: Chemical Castration

Rehabilitation: (?) could reform someone if the effects have a positive impact on the offender's life and make them aware of the consequences of their crime

Retribution: (-) having to take a tablet to lower hormone levels does not equal the pain and long-suffering trauma the victim went through!


  • (+) lowering testosterone should protect the public and prevent the offender committing another sex offence
  • (?) only temporarily given for a certain amount of time, when stopped could re-offend depends on how much of a deterrence/rehabilitation chemical castration is
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Dewi Jones


This is quite a bad one :/ Most of the theories are ambiguous, and make no sense

Zoey Jowett


Hi Dewi, I'm sorry to hear that. Unfortunately these are just the notes I am taught in class and then I use them the best I can to try and make them clear enough on these revision cards, both for myself and others. Sorry about that:/

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