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Dangerous Thinking: A Critical History of Correctional Cognitive Behaviouralism

Kendall, Kathleen
June 4, 2015

Source: (2004) IN, George Mair,ed., What Matters in Probation?. Cullompton, Devon,UK: Willan Publishing. Pp. 53-89.

In recent years some have suggested that a profound transformation is occurring in philosophy and practice in the British prison system, a grand transformation or experiment in social engineering based on offending behavior programs to reduce re-offending. This change includes the What Works initiative of the National Probation Service. In this context, Kathleen Kendall provides a historical and critical overview of a key element of the offending behavior program experiment – namely, correctional cognitive behavioralism. She contends that offending behavior programs, central to the What Works strategy, are products of neo-liberal crime policies. That is, they are part of a governmental or larger societal impetus to regulate people’s conduct through internalization of certain moral codes. Offending behavior programs, and the cognitive behavioralism underlying them, rest on the notion that offenders have failed to internalize these codes though lack of key thinking skills or distorted thinking. The programs, them, seek to “re-moralizeâ€? or “ethically reconstructâ€? offenders to think pro-socially. Kendall warns about dangers in the use of cognitive behavioralism in the treatment of offenders.


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