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Applying the principle of "response cost," some psychologists also say that a punishment must be in the same terms as the crime. Instead of fining a speeder, for example, they would immediately impound his car or license and make him walk home. Conversely, a cash theft might be dealt with not by jail but by a stiff fine equivalent to reparation. Another possibility for changing criminal behavior is "aversion therapy," which is used, for example, to cure bed wetting in children. Instead of chiding or coddling the child, the therapist has him sleep on a low-voltage electric blanket linked to a battery and a bell. Urine, which is electrolytic, then activates the bell, the child awakes and goes to the bathroom. A cure usually follows soon.
Since crime is often emotionally satisfying, a major problem is how to banish its thrills. One way is suggested by the work of Psychologist Ivar Lovaas with certain disturbed children who consistently try to mutilate themselves. He noticed that when the children went on a rampage, nurses warmly cuddled them and thus unconsciously rewarded their destructiveness. Instead Lovaas now jolts the kids with an electric cattle prod, often stopping the behavior pattern in hours or minutes. In his book Crime and Personality, Psychologist H.J. Eysenck offers a fascinating discussion of how certain depressant or stimulant drugs can be used to make a patient feel sick whenever he commits a specific antisocial act. "Given the time and resources," adds Psychologist Barry F. Singer, "a behavior-therapy program could make a bank robber want to vomit every time he saw a bank, could make an armed robber shudder every time he saw a gun."
Unhappily, all this seems remote. Only a fraction of 1% of the nation's entire crime-control budget is even spent on research. Beyond that, the system is mired in bureaucratic inertia and fiddle-faddle. Many exciting ideas are never institutionalized, the same problem that impedes school reform. In 1965, Psychologist J. Douglas Grant and his wife put 18 hardened California inmates (half of them armed robbers) to work studying how to salvage their peers. They blossomed into impressive researchers, skilled at statistics, interviews, proposal writing and the rest. Today, 13 of Grant's men are doing the same work outside. One former illiterate is getting a doctorate, one man heads a poverty-research company, two are federal poverty officials. Only one is back in prison. To Grant, this shows that criminals can be cured by trying their best to cure other criminals—an idea confirmed by many other experiments and selfhelp groups like Synanon and Alcoholics Anonymous.
But prison officials rebuffed Grant's idea, just as they do the work of other ex-convict groups seeking the same result. Instead of selfhelp, they favor trained officials working with fewer prisoners or parolees, a costly process that may well have little or no effect on the repeater rate. Thus skeptics wonder about efforts like the Federal Government's new $10.2 million Robert F. Kennedy Youth Center in Morgantown, W. Va., where 180 staffers work on a mere 200