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. 2016 Nov 9;40(1):243-256.
doi: 10.1007/s40614-016-0081-6. eCollection 2017 Jun.

Prison as Punishment: A Behavior-Analytic Evaluation of Incarceration

Free PMC article

Prison as Punishment: A Behavior-Analytic Evaluation of Incarceration

Alexis B Apel et al. Behav Anal. .
Free PMC article


The USA currently imprisons over 2.2 million people (Glaze and Kaeble, 2014). Of those, about 70 % will be rearrested within 3 years of release (Durose, Cooper, & Synder, 2014). If prison is viewed as a large-scale intervention, it lacks empirical support of effectiveness. The present paper reviews criminological data related to incarceration and evaluates components of imprisonment in light of behavior-analytic research on punishment. These factors include elements such as the individual's learning history and aspects of the punisher (e.g., intensity and immediacy). Partnering with other professionals, behavior analysts interested in this area could apply their skills in research and practice to help mitigate a large-scale problem of great social significance.

Keywords: Behavior analysis; Crime; Prison; Punishment; Recidivism.

Conflict of interest statement

Conflict of InterestThe authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest.

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