Token economy programmes are a form of behaviour modification based on the principles of operant conditioning. They are used in prisons to encourage the reduction of anti-social behaviour and criminal behaviour; they involve awarding tokens to offenders if a desired behaviour is performed. The tokens may then be exchanged for various rewards. The aim is for the desired behaviour to be repeated. As a treatment it involves setting out a range of desirable behaviours and reinforcing the offender whenever the behaviour is displayed.
This behaviour would focus upon non-aggressive, these behaviours are expected that the behaviour will become learned and automatic. Positive reinforces come in the shape of tokens—a secondary reinforcement, which can be exchanged for primary reinforcement. Negative reinforcement comes with the threat of removal of tokens and prisoners change their behaviour to avoid this consequence. A token economy system uses operant conditioning to gradually changing behaviour through primary and secondary renforcements. Anger management is another treatment aimed to prevent crime. It is used in prisons, and participants may participate voluntarily or as part of their sentence.
This is used identify triggers which may cause there aggression. By preventing aggression, the likelihood of crimes being committed is reduced. The treatment usually takes place in group settings and occurs about twice a week. A trained person runs the group. They are usually asked what factors make them feel angry and thus trigger aggression. Once this trigger has been identified, strategies can be taught which to condole and reduce the anger they experiences.
An anger management programme will be based around 3 key stages; cognitive preparation (analysing past aggression and discovering patterns, and the offender also looks at the consequences of aggression), skills acquisition (where they are taught techniques that help them to manage their response to triggers in a more productive way.) and application practice (the offender to test their skills in a range of situations).
Token economy works because the behaviour of the offender is being constantly monitored and recorded in order to award the tokens, and then becomes habit. However it is limited to institutions like a prison for this token economy to work because they will not get such awards in the ‘real world’ but it is the plan that due to what is shown by operant conditioning these desired behaviours may/can become a habit and thus behaviour is repeated. Anger management can also have a similar problem, it may be easier to control your anger and follow the program while in the group but in the ‘real world’ it may be harder to follow or perform the behaviours that are learnt from the program.
Even though this may happen for anger management there is still very effective, the offenders take part voluntarily. This increases the programme’s effectiveness, as offenders who take part voluntarily are usually more committed to the programme’s success. This is in contrast to other treatments, such as token economy, which are often enforced over an entire prison system meaning that it may not be successful in all cases.
But not all anger management is voluntary some people have to take part as part of their sentence. This provides an ulterior motive and although the offender may appear to have made progress, this could be false and the issue of anger is not actually being addressed (demand characteristics). This means that anger management like token economy may not be effective for everyone.
Another problem you may find in anger management is by doing the course they may be singled out (especially in prisons) and by singling out prisoners to show they are doing this program may cause prisoners not to take it seriously or may not consider taking it voluntary, or may take it for other motives e.g. some times taking the course can help your bid to get erlyer or longer parole periods. Token economy on the other hand dose not single out specific prisoners as all prisoners have to take part in the programme, no single prisoner can have an ulterior motive for participating.
However anger management is supported by Ireland (2000). They compared 50 young offenders on an anger management programme with 37 on the waiting list for anger management. Before and after treatment scores were taken on level of aggression shown (as reported by prison officers and by the prisoners themselves through self-report). 92% of the treatment group showed some drop in aggression with 48% showing major decreases. 8% showed deterioration.
This evidence shows strong support of anger management programmes as a way to control aggression in prison. Hobbs and Holt (1976) measured the effect of token economy on a sample of young delinquents across 3 institutions (with one other institution being used as a comparison[control group]). Tokens were awarded to those in the experimental groups whenever target behaviour was displayed. These were swapped for primary reinforces.
There was a significant (28%) increase in the target behaviours in the experimental groups compared to the controls. This shows that the token economy was an effective and cost effective (less than $8 per month per boy) way to control the behaviour of criminals whilst in prison. By comparing the results it would seem that anger management may be more effective as a way to treat crime but the numbers of people who participated was far less so Hobbs and Holt may have less success rate due to the larger groups meaning that the result may be more valid due to it being easer to apply to the prison population.