The Upside of Anger

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England's Home Office says anger management training makes violent offenders better at managing their anger. It also appears to make them better at violent offenses:

Anger management courses for convicted armed robbers, wife beaters and stalkers are being axed by the prison and probation services following an official inquiry into the murder of the city financier John Monckton. Home Office instructions sent to the probation service say that anger management courses are counterproductive and actually help violent offenders who make premeditated attacks to manipulate the situation to their advantage.

[Via Rational Review.]

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  1. It’s been fairly well-known that psychological “counseling” helps sociopaths play the system.

  2. I need to learn to direct my anger against the people in my life who deserve it!

  3. Mr.F.Le Mur,

    That is well known only if you admit that there are sociopaths and that some people are just evil and no amount of counseling is going to save them. That counseling is not the answer to everyone’s problems is something the people in the counseling business are loath to admit.

  4. This one seems pretty obvious. Therapists are highly empathetic people and sociopaths are completely without empathy but good at faking it.

    I’ve read in other places that the only form of “therapy” that reduces recidivism is “occupational therapy,” job training with a manners lesson component, and that only works on the low-level property crime sorts. In other words, if you want people to stay out of prison, teach them how to behave on the outside and don’t waste time blabbing about how what they felt about their mothers.

  5. So we have a (questionable) assertion that the program hurt in one case, without any attempt to determine whether it has helped in other cases, how much it has helped, how many cases it has helped in. I am not big on anger management problems, especially ones that coerce the involvement of the subject. Still, I think all the present case proves is tha the warden wants more prisoners and a bigger budget.

    If this were the US I would say that they should re-allocate the anger management money to eradicating the problem of prison rape.

  6. Therapists are highly empathetic people

    I wouldn’t state this as a fact. I’m sure there are many therapists who are impatient, condescending, or some who no doubt take a small amount of glee from people who are worse-off psychologically than themselves. I’m sure the fact that they all sound like Mr. Garrison or The Principal from South Park doesn’t make the sociopaths less inclined to inflict violence on them.

  7. Oh, yeah, even more than a bigger budget, I think what the warden wants most of all is a convenient scapegoat for every time the parole board guesses wrong. I have to imagine that this is a more powerful imperative than any sort of quest for better rehabilitation science.

  8. The assertion, Ghost, is that anger management courses should be used for offenders who committed offenses as a result of anger – not for those committed premeditated offenses…

  9. Color me skeptical that anger management is any significant part of the rehabilitation process.

    If you see red, lose your mind, and beat someone with your hands once, you have an anger management problem.

    If you didn’t face life altering remorse as soon as you calmed down, your primary problem wasn’t anger management – it was a lack of human empathy.

  10. In a secular society, there needs to be something that replaces religion in addressing the “spiritual” needs of society… and psychology has filled the gap. But there is no reason to believe that psychology is as effective at helping people as something like religion or other philosophy – it is just that psychology fits very well within the beurocratic structure of large modern institutions like corporations and states (which religion does not).

    The only type of psychology which is remotely scientific is maybe behaviorism. But I don’t think people would want Clockwork Orange style conditioning to be done on prisoners. We don’t even want prisons to be uncomfortable any more so that there would be some of negative conditioning for criminal behavior. (Yes, I know, prisons are very unpleasant and negative, but that is not by design… )

  11. Personally I would not mind a Clockwork Orange conditioning to stop people from indulging in certain kinds of behavior.

    The alternative is incarceration, which also stops them from indulging into that kind of behavior and also into a lot of others, no matter how innocuous.

    They would be free to be as good or nasty as they wanted, just unable to be so in a certain way.

  12. Personally I would not mind a Clockwork Orange conditioning to stop people from indulging in certain kinds of behavior.

    The trouble is, if the system works on criminals who commited the crime, why isn’t it better to do the treatment BEFORE they commit the crime? We can all be conditioned to follow the laws BEFORE we break them.

  13. The trouble is, if the system works on criminals who commited the crime, why isn’t it better to do the treatment BEFORE they commit the crime? We can all be conditioned to follow the laws BEFORE we break them.

    Well gee, we’re all just total dumasses for not thinking of that one ourselves. In fact…it’s so damn easy, why don’t we all just start doing that right now.

    The fact is, “conditioning” people kinda flies in the face of anything approaching freedom, let alone libertarian thought.

    Should we start spotting these folks and treating them early? Maybe. Unfortunately that logic has produced all sorts of unnefective – if not downright stupid – measures to do just that.

    The plain reality is that you can’t trust the implimenters of such a system to apply it with any degree of competence, fairness or goal of acheiving the desired result.

    I’m open to your idea, R.R. I just don’t trust anyone to actually make it work.

  14. Well, Rex Rhino, your argument against conditioning because it can be used BEFORE the crime, why, it can be used for putting people in jail, too.

    I said, as an alternative to inarceration. See this guy has committed a crime, and the judge has the discretion of either putting him in jail where he cannot repeat that crime, and also cannot go to the corner grocery, nor go jogging, nor any kind of non-offending behavior, because that would mean taking him out of the cage. Or we put a little cage in his mind, specific for the crme he committed, to keep him from doing it again, and leave him free to do all the other behavior good, bad, or indifferet that he chooses to do.

  15. Adriana, when are you starting your campaign for Chief Conditioner? What kind of superior psychological knowledge do you have that can biomedically separate out one thought and force a person to not think it anymore? What kind of divine wisdom do you have to know what thoughts are totally undesirable?

    Can we interested citizens force you first to undergo your own special treatment to make sure you don’t misuse your powers?

  16. speedwell:

    I have no truck with thoughts. It is behaviors that would fall into that cathegory.

    So, you can think about setting a place on fire, you can talk about setting it on fire. But when time comes to strike a match you freeze.

    Of course, it makes you dependent on microwaved foods. But no one dies of it.

    Let’s not forget that we are talking about an alternative to incarceration, by people who have committed crimes agaist others. I would say that a person who commits violence against another has forfeited certain rights.

  17. It’s also unpleasant for people to think that some rapes are done for sexual gratification rather than as an act of aggression per se.

  18. There is also the unintentional consequence that anger management facilitates premeditation.

    You get mad at someone:

    • Before AM: Punch him out.
    • After AM: Control the impulse to punch, walk over to your car, fetch your tire iron, walk back, crush his skull.

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