Changing times – Psychiatry and IPP


Many psychologists (and those that wish to minimise their own culpability) have a tendency to link adult behaviours to those experienced as a child. They use the reasoning that learned behaviour, or transference, impacts the development of emotional reasoning and cognitive decision-making as an adult; if the child is exposed to poor or socially unaccepted parenting.

You can’t blame the psychologists or psychiatrists though! They are taught archaic theories and perspectives from practitioners of a different (outlived) era. For any argument to be fully and widely accepted, there must be contra-data to compare and contrast proposed theories. However, there have been very few studies examining an opposing theory that may state that parenting or childhood experiences have little or no impact on cognitive reasoning as an adult.

” We are in a spiral of depravity caused by a change of accepted behaviours of our time; in comparison to those exhibited 30 years ago “

Has growing up with Punch & Judy shows, in which Mr Punch is often depicted as a violent wife-beating angry man, created a generation of chauvinistic domestic abusers? Has growing up with Grand Theft Auto created a generation of gun-toting, prostitute-murdering people? The answer to the above is a resounding NO.

Psychologists would agree that behaviours of today have evolved (or maybe devolved) into a more degenerative social status, or that we are in a spiral of depravity caused by a change of accepted behaviours of our time; in comparison to those exhibited 30 years ago. Whilst this might be true of some aspects of socially unacceptable behaviour; for the majority, this is a heavily diluted claim.

In the last 30 years, life in general has evolved. The way in which we communicate with each other, the way in which we share information, the way in which family, marriage or religion is viewed or practised has changed radically. The cultural diversity experienced in every country has changed, as has the role of the sexes. This multitude of influences has completely altered the social acceptance of today; it has radically changed the education system and the criminal justice system. It continually impacts on governmental policy-making and media focus. So why hasn’t it impacted on the psychological perspectives of those charged with this area of expertise?

Advice commonly given to those serving IPP or life sentence prisoners is that for the first couple of years, create problems and get in trouble, why? This seems counter-productive, does it not? Well, this is so the psychology department can justify their existence.

How many times have IPP prisoners or life-sentenced prisoners heard the justification for parole refusal; ‘We have seen no progress demonstrating a significant improvement in behaviour’? So, if you behave throughout your sentence, complete all recommended OBPs, you still face parole refusal because the psychologist departments have no benchmarks.

Prison creates an abnormal environment; continued frustration, repressed violence, peaks and troughs of depression and acceptance, exposure to addictions and differing criminality. This environment is unique to prison and yet psychologists determine and measure criminogenic factors of an individual whilst they are enveloped in this pseudo-environment. The behaviours, communications, attitudes and emotions of an individual are all influenced by environment and yet prison psychologists base their measurements and prognosis’ on what they see in front of them. They themselves do not live in this environment and are not exposed to the variance in behavioural attrition and can therefore, never fully appreciate the exposure of the melting pot of behaviours rife within prison.

I can explain the function and performance of the internal combustion engine, but having never seen one, I could never hope to fix one. Psychologists are exactly the same. You can read a hundred books and still never be able to understand what it is like to be a serving prisoner. Using that analogy, what qualifies psychologists within the prison system to determine whether a prisoner is fit for release/recategorisation?

In any commercial environment, a manager of people MUST have experienced the role of the people they expect to manage. Qualifications mean very little when compared to actual experience and success. So, why then do prison psychologists feel they shouldn’t have to conform to this internationally recognised blueprint.