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October 12, 1975 - Image 3

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
Michigan Daily, 1975-10-12

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

editors:

Mary long
jo marcotty
barb cornell

Sunday

mclgcazine

inside:
page four-books
page five-profile

Number 4 Page Three October
FEATUR

12, 1975
ES

Behavior

mod:

Euphemism

for a kind o fps ychogenocide

By DAVID WEINBERG
"IT'S LIKE THEY'RE always
watching you." He gestures to
windows in the roof of his cell
where guards can observe him. "Or
they're listening to you." He indi-
cates the speaker on the wall.
"Always judging how you're be-
having. Always telling you . ."
his voice trails off. He looks at the
floor in his cell thinking of what
else to say. It is dinner hour at the
prison, and a cart staffed by ten
men begins moving slowly down
the wing. One of the servers silent-
ly gestures to the prisoner with an
antiseptic, plastic - gloved hand.
All but one of the prisoners ac-
cept the stew and boiled potatoes
served through a rectangular slot
in the cell's bars.
The prisoner continues, placing
his food aside momentarily. "One
thing you don't realize about the
place is once you're in, you're in
for good. There's no way out of
here except through the program."
IT'S NOT THE YPE of thing
they're talking about at cock-
tail parties anymore.
It had its fling in the newspa-
pers. For a while it triggered the
public's imagination. Then behav-
ior modification went the way of
most 'vogue 'topics in this coun-
try -- fading like the ephemeral
image on a television screen
For an involved few, it is a topic
that has never lost its impact on
society. To some its an unbeatable
method of personal problem solv-
ing. For others it symbolizes psy-
chogenocide - the ultimate con-
trol of human behavior.
In the deepening silence sur-
rounding it, behavior modification
has moved quietly into the prison
system, schools and one-on-one
therapy. The initial furor has dis-
sipated, but the behavior modifica-
tion story and its problems remain
- harbringers of a new technology
and a new age.
I OCAL BEHAVORIST James Mc-
Connell once said to a group
of lawyers that "The day has come
when we can combine sensory de-
privation with the use of drugs,
hvnnocis and the astute manipula-
tion of reward and punishment to
gain almost absolute control over
an individual's behavior.. .I forsee
the day when we could take the
worst criminal and convert him
into a decent respectable citizen
in a matter of months-or even
less time than that."
McConnell said earlier this year

.; };

Dailv Photo by KEN FINK
"No one insists that a physicist fall in love with
electrons and treat them nicely and humane-
ly," McConnell once said. "They are free to be
objective about the things they study. The be-
haviorist asks no less than this. That is, he
deals with people as 'objects to be studied'
and perhaps to be manipulated."
........

that this statement was "blown
totally out of proportion. The fact
was, I was talking to a group of
lawyers who were doubting that
people could ever be changed. I
wanted to reassure them that pri-
soners could be changed as peo-
ple."
Behavior mod does have its posi-
tive uses, but it is in the omnipo-
tent mentality which produced Mc-
Connell's statement that the con-
troversy- lies. There is something
compelling about-a manipulative
power under a scientific cover.
* * * -
SINCE THE TURN OF the cen-
tury, and particularly since
WWII and B. F. Skinner, the appli-
cation of behavior modification -
B. Mod, B.M., Behavior Mod, what-
ever the moniker - has expanded
enormously. Proponents of the
theory insist on, examining people
"objectively," dealing with their
behavior. They do not focus. on
motivations or intentions, but on
observable behavior. Some behav-
iorists even speak of their patients
in techno-scientific jargon.
"No one insists that a physicist

fall in love with electrons and treat
them nicely and humanely," Mc-
Connell once said. "Nor do we in-
sist that a chemist be particularly
nice to each oxygen molecule. They
are free to be objective about the
things they study."
Behavorists ask no less than this.
Thev deal with people as 'objects
to be studied' and perhaps to be
manipulated.
-rPROBABLY THE MOST ideal en-
vironment for the study of hu-
man maninulation is a closed one,
a controlled institution where
'narticinants' could be compared
with laboratory animals. A prison.
When you cross the Mackinac
n-ido'e. vnu're about half way to
th0 Michigan TntensivP Program
renter (MIPC) in Marquette.
From then on the road to Mar-
onotte hecomeC a series of empty
nassa geways through sprawling
forests. The city and the prison
are surrounded by woods, and it is
almost shocking to find a peniten-
tiarv at the end of the tree lined
driveway leading to the Marquette
Branch Prison (MBP). But past
the MBP gates and in the only

barren area for miles around, sits
the MIPC.
The MIPC is a behavior modifi-
cation program designed to house
about 90 "troublesome and assaul-
tive" - inmates. Originally funded
by the federal Law Enforcement
Assistance Administration, the $1.5
million program is one of the most
advanced behavior mod set-ups in
the country, or for that matter in
the world.
THE CENTER FOR activity and
security for the prison is the
Control Bubble, a complex series of
instrument panels manned by two
guards (or "specialists" to use
Marquette terminology) who con-
trol heat light, doorways and an
intercom system for every cell in
the building. Cells stretch out in a
four-wing X shape from the bub-
ble, and each wing is named a dif-
ferent color - blue, green, orange,
yellow for program purposes.
The program is based on a "tok-
en economy" system where in-
mates are awarded points for good
behavior. In order to be promoted
from one level wing to the next, a
prisoner must amass anywhere
from 2000 to 3000 extra tokens, and
to remain on any one level, a week-
ly "rent" must be paid in tokens.
CREEN WING, the lowest level of
the MIPC, puts virtually a to-
tal clamp on a prisoner's activity.
A prisoner describes it:
"Once in Green Wing, you're riot
allowed anything except the ne-
cessities such as clothes, bedlinen,
soap, etc. and many times you're
denied these." Green Wing is sm-
ply sensory deprivation to the ul-
timate degree and it is used for
brainwashing and experimentation
purposes. It is also a common place
for beatings, gassings, and feces in
the food."
"We can't set those accusations
aside," says MIPC superintendent
Ronald Gach. "But we have been
bombarded with investigation upon
investigation. Everybody thinks
we're using lobotomies, Clockwork
Orange techniques."
( ATER THAT AFTERNOON, a
prisoner in the Yellow Wing,
the highest level of the program,
denied that he's been changed by
behavior modification. The man is
in his mid-20's, and has been in
prison since 1979, but has only
been in the program for six
months. "No, he smiles and shrugs,
"I don't think I'm any different.
Are they really using drugs
here?
"Well, I don't know. I don't see
them forcing it on anybody. I know
somebody got kerosene in their
food last week. And I know that
sometimes I'll drink some milk
here and feel myself start to go
numb."
"Look," counters Gach, "what
would you do if you were locked
un and wanted to make life miser-
able for your keepers? Harrass
them. Make life miserable for
them. That's why they are writing
the letters and saying those
thines."
BUT PRISON ADMINISTRATORS
ar circumspect in responding
to these charges. They prefer to
discuss the logistics of .their insti-
tution.
Dr. James Metzin, the staff psy-
chologist. is a gnarled man who is
so tired he has a pernetual flow of
tears down his cheeks. "We're not

Intere.-ted in the mysterious little
thinks that take place in these neo-
npie's heads" savs Metzin. "Our fo-
cus here is on the obiectively ob-
servable behavior. They can think
Phnoit ki ing or raping somebody
P11 thv want."
The most serious problem with
the nrogram is that no one on the

the prison.
A ND THEY'VE got a law suit on
their hands.
Gabe Kamowitz of the Michigan
Legal Service in Detroit is seeking
to close the prison down. "The
whole basis of our attack on the
MIPC," he says, "is that it's an ex-
perimental process. And if we can
prove it's an experiment, they ain't
gonna be able to do it."
The Kaimowitz case has nation-
al significant because it's not
testing for obvious abuses in the
MIPC program, but the concept as
a whole as violating constitutional
rights of the prisoners.
It could be the end of behavior
modification in prison.
A RECENT AUDIT of the MIPC
confirms what many people
have thought all along about
maintaining behavior modifica-
tion programs in prison-it's ex-
pensive, in this case nearly three
times the cost of a normal peni-
tentiary.
Otherwise, life goes on quietly at
Marquette with little indicaition
the officials may face legal and
fiscal trouble ahead. For the priso-
ners, that trouble could mean, if
nothing else, the end of a program
that never stops "watching" them
through the walking hours of the
day.
THE PUBLIC SCHOOL system has
felt the effects of behavior
modification probably more than
the prison system, but the battles
over it have been much less in-
tense. Only a few concerned par-
ents and some administrators have
raised their voices.
And vet' its use in the classroom
is certainly no less exnerimental
than behind prison bars. Excent
nPorhanm. that it is less directly
maninulative since it is most often
vmed in coniunction with other
tearching methods.
But an uncomfortable number of
shool enrsonnel are interested in
its function as a discinlinarv tonl.
To a casual ohserver. the Mark
Twain niublic school in Maryland
is as normal and as American as
itq name. But subtle differences

Daily Photo by PAULINE LUBENS
a kid how they're behaving," says
school psychologist Steve Johnson.
"With the cameras we can confront
them afterwards, and say, 'You be-
haved this way,' and then show it
to them."
RETWEEN THE VIDEO tapes,
point system, 'evaluations,'
compliment cards, and 'T-A' ses-
sions the school has designed a
program in which the children can
probably never forget 'how they be-
have.'
Mark Twain is one public school
which uses behavior mod as an ov-
erall approach to teaching and
managing children who have been
disciplinary problems in the regu-
lar school system.
Johnson said, "I don't know. I
wonder sometimes if we have too
. . . too much control over these
kids. If you consider how much ef-
feet we can have on these lives-
sometimes it reminds me of the
witch - hunting in Salem, or the
German persecution of the Jews."
Johnson is a young, native Ne-
braskan who is unusually honest
in apnralsing the virtues and de-
ficiencies of his own school. "But
it bothers me sometimes, like we're
saving to the kid 'this is the way
you have to be' even if they're not
that way."
TEACHERS EVALUATE their stu-
dents at the beginning and
end of every class hour. Students
can use 'noints' to buy extra food
and small models. One behavior
mod-style school in Washington
D.C. actually has someone special-
lv assigned to monitor the class
and keep a running tab of the stu-
dents' points on the blackboard.
There aren't many schools in
this country that use behavior
modification to the extent that
Mark Twain does. But many class-
rooms do use it in some form.
One University Education School
official estimates that 85-90 per
cent of the school's graduates come
out with some exposure to behav-
ior mod techniques, and about 40-
50 ner cent graduate with a work-
in knowledge of them.
Ed. school nrof Finley Carpenter,

_ .

IN

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