The influence of sanogenic thinking on the emotional state of the convicted

Table of contents: The Kazakh-American Free University Academic Journal №4 - 2012

Author: Kozlovskaya Mariya, Kazakh-American Free University, Kazakhstan

In the society human life is governed by certain social and regulatory standards, in which the law occupies a central place. In cases law is a subject begins to bear legal responsibility, and the state, represented by authorized bodies, begins to apply the punitive sanction to him. If a person commits a crime he must be punished. According to the legal doctrine, punishment is a special measure of state coercion, accompanied by deprivation or restriction of the rights and freedoms of a person who is found guilty of a criminal act. Thus, punishment is a charge for the crime, retribution for the damage inflicted. But, how does effectively isolation an individual from society, staying in the group of people in a limited space during long period of time within the scarcity of sensory stimulus and continuous communication with the same people?

Punishment is applied in order to restore social justice, also for correction of a convicted and prevent the commission of a new offense by a convicts or by others people. According to the law a punishment must not cause the physical suffering or degradation.

A forced social isolation often serves as a punishment, that is, deprivation of liberty and putting it in a corrective labour institution.

When a convicted stays in social isolation he begins «to exist in a kind of vacuum» and stops developing as a person. Freedom is known to be a necessary condition for development. Personality of a criminal begins to undergo a number of changes.

The generalization of experience of the Republic of Kazakhstan Penitentiary Facilities shows the importance of special work in psychological correction work with the convicted as irreversible changes appear in the psychological state of the convicted while they are staying continuously in prison for several years (according to recent studies, this period is three years). The importance of psychological training has increased significantly due to the deep analysis of psychological factors, in particular, their role in repeat criminal offences, in criminology in recent years. The psychological training for the convicted plays an important role in overcoming recurrent practice. It performs the initial and final link in the process of correcting the convicted. Psychological readiness for living in a new environment is formed with the help of goal-directed activities. Without such help they add to the already numerous maladjusted, marginalized people and eventually get a permanent "registration" in the colonies.

Psychological correction work is done during the whole period of imprisonment. But special emphasis should be placed on a period of adjustment and the period prior to the release, as at this time the main negative states are more evident.

The shortage of this psychological preparation has been detected in recent years; consequently it is possible to say that one of the main punishment functions, re-socialization of the convicted, is not performed. At this moment the law provides for psychological services of penal facilities, because the necessity of physiologists’ active participation not only in crime investigation, but also in implementation of punishment and execution has been proved.

But in spite of this state of things, a rather paradoxical situation is forming nowadays: controlling crime, we declare the humane approach to the punishment determination, (it means the choice individualization and application of punitive measures with regard to all the personality characteristics of the convicted person), but actually we do not deal with the correction of criminals, we just isolate them from the society for a particular term. In fact, they are separated in order to make them live in the society, their actions are planned to teach them useful and active behavior, they are kept among the same criminals to turn their bad habits into good ones, but it just leads to the mutual baneful influence.

Besides, it is possible to draw an interesting conclusion: as the convicted person is obliged to be among other criminals, there appears an invisible borderline between them and free people, the reality changes – the convicted begin to take themselves as free persons. The consolidation of prisoners inevitably leads to the differentiation “we” and “they”. Life loses its diversity because of the division. So, penal facilities cultivate recidivists, because nowadays criminal subculture influences the personality of the convicted person more than the official penitentiary system. This is due to the fact that the national penitentiary system does not have the necessary theoretical and practical methods, which can improve efficiency of its function.

Emotions determine a person’s behavior greatly, including criminal behavior, which is always followed by the punishment, the consequence of any criminal action.

Punishment is defined as a special measure of the official enforcement, which is accompanied by deprivation or limitation of freedom or rights of a person, found guilty of committing a criminal action in the legal doctrine. This is enforcement measure, expressed in the punishment, having as its object to make convicted person reform and to reeducate them, to prevent committing of criminal actions by convicted persons and others and to promote eradication of crime.

The compulsory social isolation is the reason of changes in mental condition of a person, because it is connected with various restrictions of the necessities of life, and some of them cannot be met at all. In other words, the life in places of confinement subjects a person to the negative mental condition.

Re-socialization of the convicted, as one of the main functions of the penal facilities, is primarily connected with their value reorientation, formation of the mechanism of the socially-positive goal-setting, the development of the steady socially-positive behavior stereotypes.

There are four types of penal facilities for men to achieve these aims, not including a penal colony settlement and a prison: a general regime colony, a reinforced regime colony, a strict regime colony and a special regime colony. The term security determines the confinement conditions of the prisoners.

Security, in the psychological aspect, is a special organization of life and activities of the convicted in accordance with laws and regulations.

In a way the life and activity organization has a certain correctional influence on the person, forming an adequate behavioral stereotype, habits and personal qualities.

For the imprisoned the confinement security is the same thing as environment for people who are not in prison. It is different in colonies with different contingent of the imprisoned – ordinary, strengthened, strict and special security.

Now penitentiaries of low security are for people with no previous convictions who have committed offences of no great social danger. Strict security is for those people who have committed crimes of great social danger and repeat criminal offenders.

As a result of imprisonment, negative emotions will prevail in the emotional state of the convicted. The tighter the regime is, the more limitations the imprisoned have and the more needs are blocked. All that leads to the increase of tension.

Consequently, the intensity and the specificity of the emotional state display are directly dependent on the security level of a penitentiary.

The research of the dynamics of the imprisoned person’s personality results in the conclusion that its evolution in this specific environment is subject to certain laws and consists of several stages. V.P. Vassilyev singles out the following stages: 1) arrest; 2) sentence; 3) arrival at a penal colony; 4) first 6-8 months of imprisonment; 5) 3-8 months before release from prison; 6) release from a penal colony.

All these six stages are crucial in the personality dynamics of the imprisoned at these moments as a dramatic change of a person’s state, intentions and priorities takes place – fear of the coming penalty during the arrest, apathy after the sentence, readiness to redeem himself, strive to get free as soon as possible - this is not the complete list of those emotional state that a person experiences at different stages, beginning from his arrest and up to the moment he is free [1].

There are two trends in the convicted person’s dynamics: the first consists in adaptation to the conditions of social isolation, the second one is characterized by increasing negative changes in the personality, their fixation which hampers successful adaptation to the imprisonment conditions, and, consequently, to further correction and rehabilitation of the convicted.

The personality of the convicted is characterized by a number of negative psychological states. In psychology the psychological state is defined as a psychological category consisting of all kinds of integrated impact on the subject both internal and external stimuli without awareness of its content.

The main negative states of the convicted are increased irritability, depressive anxiety, tenseness, estrangement, increased aggression (often unmotivated), despair, sense of deprivation. These negative states predetermine priorities in organization of correction work with the convicted.

Correction of the criminal cannot be achieved only by external influence.

The above-mentioned predetermines the need for arranging psychological training in penitentiary facilities, aimed at enhancing psychical processes, and developing the proper behavior model for the convicted life after serving a term in prison. The main point in the correction program is radical change of a person’s attitude both to the environment and to himself.

Therefore, it is clear that at present development of such a system of knowledge is a pressing problem.

One way to achieve the goal is the method of sanogenic thinking, introduced by Yu. M. Orlov. It defines the following functions of thinking:

- First, thinking creates an idea of the things that do not exist yet, but should be;

- Second, it gives the environment (situations) in which a person will have to live and act;

- Third, it anticipates the feelings that a person will experience in this case;

- Fourth, it systemizes the information that a person receives from the outside and the one that he draws from memory, prepares it in such a way that it is better to remember and is always at hand;

- Fifth, curbs or excites the senses, creates fear or joy [2].

Specificity of the sanogenic thinking is the ability to use it for detecting the causes of any condition of the person, primarily, emotional, which, in turn, influences the choice of behavioral strategies that lead to the realization of a motive or a group of motives. In the case of committing a crime, a person may not always be aware of the true motives of his actions, replacing them by externally imposed ones. Therefore, it is clear that the ability to think in this way for people who commit crimes or latent criminals is important. Development of sanogenic thinking is a way that could affect the process of correcting the person convicted, and, mainly, the process of further rehabilitation and re-socialization. Sanogenic thinking can change the self-awareness of the convicted, their attitude to their own needs and interests, and their feelings and experience through reflection and analysis of emotions. The above mentioned changes in the style of thinking will lead to a qualitative change in behavior and the means of achieving goals. For example, satisfaction of sexual needs is a basic need. But one way to meet this need is to court a girl, the other one is raping. This example confirms the statement mentioned above. Thus, we can say that, being able to think in a sanogenic way, gives a person a choice - whether to become a criminal or not.

In the first part of our pilot research project, we decided on the methods of work. As a result of the content analysis members of the test correction group were selected. They were studied in detail on the basis of their curricula vita analysis, as well as by the first psychological test. The most typical negative emotional states specific to the convicted in the period preceding the release were identified. It should also be noted that the entire test group (300 people) was divided into two large groups: prisoners - repeat offenders and first offenders.

Such a division was made as these two categories of the convicted are quite different from each other. The former already have the experience of being in prison and many negative emotional states are either expressed weakly or not expressed at all.

The second part of our research was devoted to correction work, the purpose of which was to correct the most striking negative states with the help of Yu.M. Orlov’s sanogenic thinking technique. After the training was the second behavior psychological test, designed to assess the efficiency of the work.

Considering the personality profiles obtained as a result of the second psychological test and comparing them with the results of the first one, we see that the character profiles have not changed, the negative states are expressed less often. In the group of the repeat offenders, only columns VII (reactive aggression) and IX (self-criticism) rated slightly above average. In the group of the first offenders only column VII (reactive aggression) is above average and the sociability level (column V) has decreased. This may be explained by the fact that during the correction work a need in a thorough self-evaluation, and they started to deliberately avoid communication. The changes in the groups are shown in Figure 1 and Figure 2.

Figure 1: Graph of personality profiles - the results of averages (FPI (B) questionnaire) in the group of the repeat offenders (data of the first and second tests)

Line 1 – Test 1

Line 2 – Test 2

Figure 2: Graph of personality profiles - the results of averages (FPI (B) questionnaire) in the group of the first offenders (data of the first and second tests)

Line 1 – Test 1

Line 2 – Test 2

Significant changes have taken place, practically, on all scales, with few exceptions. The difference in the perception of the impact of the correction work can be explained by the depth of criminalization of a convicted person and, consequently, the stability of negative phenomena, largely determining the antisocial personality in general.

In order to analyze the dynamics of anxiety, we used Mc-Nemor G-sign test and obtained the following results. Both situational and personal anxiety of repeat offenders have decreased (Gemp = 48 G0.01<55 – situational anxiety, Gemp = 53 G0.01 < 55 - personal anxiety). In the group of the first offenders there is also a reduced level of both forms of anxiety (Gemp = 19 G0.01 < 60 - situational anxiety; Gemp = 16 G0.01 < 60 – personal anxiety). The results suggest that, as a result of the correction work there has been a significant decrease in anxiety. And in the first group of prisoners the significance of this decrease was relatively higher. In addition it should be noted that after the correction work some research participants had, on the contrary, the increased level of both personal and situational anxiety. We can assume that in this case there has been weakening of psychological protection in the form of "emotional deafness", which we described earlier as a result of the fact that a participant of the test group was more actively involved in the correction work and improved his self-awareness. Therefore, we cannot consider such a response as a negative result of the correction work.

After processing the data, we conducted a factor analysis to identify the main factors that have an impact on the convicted person. We managed to identify the factors that are typical of the first group – repeat offenders. The first of these has such inherent characteristics as lack of emotional stability, situational anxiety and aggression, depression, introvert personality and increased emotional lability. This factor predetermines quick change of feelings and situation-based outbreaks of aggression against the background of possible depression. The second factor combines parameters such as increased irritability, neurotic states, personal anxiety and femininity. This factor leads to the appearance of the convicted of the so-called feminine type, most often classified as "excluded."

For the group of first offenders three factors dominate. The first one is characterized by such parameters as machismo, introvert personality type, resistance to stress, reserve and spontaneous aggression. This factor determines the kind of behavior that is characterized by stability, lack of mood swings, manifestation of aggressive outbursts only in extreme situations. Great influence this factor has a group of the convicted, belonging to the category of "authorities." The second factor includes the increased nervousness, situational and personal anxiety, depression, emotional lability. The influence of this factor is manifested by in the appearance of neurotic and depressive states. The factor, most often, affects suspicious, anxious convicted with uncertain position. The third factor includes increased irritability, reactive aggression and sociability. It determines, in most cases, uninhibited aggressive behavior characteristic of the so called "bulls".

Besides factor analysis, we also held cluster analysis; as a result, we were able to single out 10 clusters for the group of first offenders and 11 clusters for the group of repeat offenders. For each group we developed detailed recommendations with consideration of the specificity of each of the selected clusters.

Both groups underwent certain changes in the emotional state after the correction lessons. The ambiguity of the results is due to the attitude of the participants to the correction work. Despite a relatively short period of time and the inability to monitor the lives of the participants after imprisonment, we can still speak about the effectiveness of the method in improving the emotional state of correction program participants. During the research, we were able to identify not only the main features of different categories of the convicted, but also divide the studied categories of the convicted into clusters, to determine guidelines for working with each of them and to identify the range of factors that affect a convicted person in each category. We can also say that out hypothesis was confirmed:

Sanogenic thinking can correct and prevent further negative emotional states of the convicted;

- for the convicted of both categories the typical states are increased depression, anxiety, aggression, and lack of emotional stability;

- the results of the correction work with first offenders are better, as they are not included in full in the functioning of the criminal subculture, criminalization and anti-social orientation of the individual is not rigidly fixed in the personality of the individual, in addition, the internal structure of first offenders has not undergone most irreversible changes that take place in repeat offenders and are the result of long social isolation.

This study enabled us to formulate the following practical guidelines:

- There is now a mature, tested method which can improve and optimize the process of correction and re-socialization of the convicted;

- For its greater efficiency constant, systematic work with the convicted is required;

The technique is flexible enough as it can be applied to any person and does not require extensive training of specialists and, more importantly, suggests that the participants of a correction group are to do much on their own which, in its turn, ensures a better result in comparison with other types of re-socialization of the convicted;

- Organization of the correction work requires considering a number of specific issues: first, it is necessary to note the presence of the psychological resistance of the convicted. Moreover, the longer the term of penal punishment is, the stronger the resistance may be. Most often it is manifested in the denial of the efficiency of this kind of work, which is based on the feeling "we" and "they." The convicted tend to believe that the society rejects them, none but the criminal community needs them, therefore, attention to them, to their lives and fate may be caused purely by scientific interest, e.g. when correction work is being arranged. Psychologists very often fail at that, the main argument of the convicted being "... we do not want to be guinea pigs..." Often, this situation is exacerbated by improper conduct of penitentiary facility personnel;

- Secondly, there is no possibility to organize correction work according to all the rules. In particular, there are no opportunity to select participants of the correction group, in such a way that they may not know each other, to cluster only men, there is no possibility to take into account age specificity of the correction program participants, it is impossible to neutralize the impact of the personnel on the convicts’ behavior, and finally, there are no specialized facilities. All this leads to the fact that only 70% of the convicted work with all the material of the correction program; the remaining 30% study the material not so thoroughly because of either selective or superficial approach;

- Third, it is possible to conduct this kind of work only on the territory of a penitentiary facility which results in perceiving this kind of impact as part of measures aimed at providing criminal law penalties, and, in particular, the security content;

- Fourth, the sex of the instructor (the opposite sex of the participants) also affects the correction work. This influence is particularly strong in groups of the convicted for the term of ten to fifteen years. It takes one-third of the correction program time to overcome this kind of influence which greatly reduces its effectiveness. However, on the other hand, when the instructor is a woman it helps solve a very important problem – maintaining communication skills and interaction with the opposite sex. Therefore, we recommend that the instructors should be of both sexes;

- Fifth, during the correction program, providing interacting among the participants, the instructor should take into consideration informal interpersonal communication among prisoners (in particular, informal stratification), based on the laws of the criminal subculture. Moreover, the stricter the security level of a penitentiary facility is, the greater these characteristics are manifested. Therefore, organizing such correction work with repeat offenders, one should plan the program thoroughly;

- Sixth, the efficiency of the correction program would increase if there was a possibility of a long-term observation of the program participants after they leave the penitentiary facility. Unfortunately, at present this is not possible due to lack of high level of visitation services and social welfare services, the police do not want to do this work.

Further research may include studying:

- the effect sanogenic thinking has on correction of juvenile offenders and convicted women;

- impact of sanogenic thinking not only on the correction of negative emotional states but also on changes in the purpose orientation of the convicted;

- the way sanogenic thinking affects people of different ethnic groups.


1. Vassilyev, V.P. (1997) Legal Psychology. St. Petersburg

2. Orlov, Yu. (1987) Sanogenic thinking. Moscow

Table of contents: The Kazakh-American Free University Academic Journal №4 - 2012

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