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Note, Behavior Modification: Winners in the Game of Life?
Cleveland State Law Review (1975)
  • Richard L. Aynes, University of Akron School of Law
DR. B. F. SKINNER, Harvard's noted professor and psychologist, and perhaps the most famous advocate of "behavior modification," saw the hope of such scientific social engineering as creating a "technology of behavior" in order to effectuate control. While aspirations to exercise such control of men's minds were somewhat novel, it took only until 1962 for the Bureau of Prisons to become actively interested in the possibilities. In that year Dr. James V. Bennett, who was then Director of the United States Bureau of Prisons, presided over a seminar on corrections which was attended by psychologists and wardens alike. Dr. Bennett, shared the feeling attributed to many social scientists that because the federal prison system had control over thousands of prisoners it offered "a tremendous opportunity" for experimentation. He urged the participants to take the initiative in activating their own behavior modification programs. "What I am hoping is that the audience here will believe that we here in Washington are anxious to have you undertake some of these things: do things perhaps on your own - undertake a little experiment of what you can do with the Muslims, what you can do with some of the sociopath individuals." Just how quickly social scientists and correctional officials wouldadopt Dr. Bennett's proposals was unknown. But it is now clear that in 1974, when law suits and legislative investigations brought behavior control programs to the public's attention, such programs were wide-spread, and adherents of behavior control programs were firmly entrenched in the bureaucracy of the correctional systems. It is because the officials who administer the penal institutions are firmly committed to "behavior control" as a method of penological reform that it is important to consider this "new approach" and all of its ramifications. It is to that end that this note will consider the extent and intensity of behavior control programs; the legal ramifications of such programs; and prospects for the future.
Publication Date
Citation Information
Richard L. Aynes, Note, Behavior Modification: Winners in the Game of Life?, 24 Cleveland State Law Review 422 (1975).