Morality Behind Bars

An Intervention Study on Fostering Moral Competence of Prisoners as a New Approach to Social Rehabilitation

by Kay Hemmerling (Author)
©2014 Thesis 148 Pages


Prisoners prefer moral ideals like justice and responsibility just as much as non-prisoners. However, they lack moral competence, which Georg Lind has defined as the ability to solve conflicts through deliberation and communication rather than through violence, deceit and power. The data of this experimentally designed intervention study show that imprisonment mostly makes things worse. It leads to a regression of moral competence. Further, these data show that – with appropriate training methods like the Konstanz Method of Dilemma Discussion (KMDD) – moral competence can be effectively and sustainably fostered. The KMDD lets participants learn to solve stressful morally dilemmatic moments with mutual respect, thinking and discussion – the keys to a non-delinquent life in society.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the Author
  • About the Book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Assimilation
  • Acknowledgements
  • Contents
  • List of Abbreviations
  • List of Tables
  • List of Figures
  • Preface: Criminality as Lowest Level of Moral Competence
  • 1 Introduction
  • 2 Fostering Moral Competence in Social Rehabilitation
  • 2.1. Legal Framework of Social Rehabilitation
  • 2.1.1 The Legal Meaning of Social Rehabilitation
  • 2.1.2 Legal Requirements for Social Rehabilitation
  • 2.1.3. Claim and Reality of Social Rehabilitation: A Critical Appraisal
  • 2.2 Traditional Approaches to Define and Measure the Success of Rehabilitation Efforts: A Critical Appraisal
  • 2.2.1 Recidivism Studies and Meta-Analyses in Social Rehabilitation
  • 2.2.2 Measurement of Attitudes
  • 2.2.3 Competencies in Social Rehabilitation: Missing in Theory
  • 2.3 Moral Competence: A New Paradigm for Social Rehabilitation
  • 2.3.1 A Short History of the Concept and its Meanings
  • 2.3.2 Lind’s Dual-Aspects-Theory
  • 2.3.3 Fostering Moral Orientations: An Aim of Social Rehabilitation?
  • 2.3.4 Moral Competence is an Aim of Social Rehabilitation
  • 2.3.5 The Relevance of Moral Competence for Social Rehabilitation
  • 2.3.6 The Education Theory of Moral Competence Emerging from the Dual-Aspects-Theory
  • 2.4. Learning Environments in Prison
  • 2.4.1 Social Rehabilitation Methods in Jails and Prisons: A Lack of Opportunities for Moral Learning?
  • 2.4.2 Increasing Effectiveness: From Kohlberg-Blatt to KMDD
  • 2.4.3 The Konstanz Method of Dilemma Discussion (KMDD)
  • 2.4.4 The Impact of Dilemma-Discussions in Prisons on Moral Orientations and Moral Competence
  • 2.5 Research Questions and Hypotheses
  • 2.5.1 Moral Orientations Don’t Change During Imprisonment (Hyp. 1)
  • 2.5.2 Formal Education Can Stop the Regression of Moral Competence During Imprisonment (Hypothesis 2)
  • 2.5.3 An Unfavorable Learning Environment is Responsible for the Regression of Moral Competence in the Penal System (Hypothesis 3)
  • 2.5.4 KMDD Fosters Moral Competence and other Effect Criteria of Social Rehabilitation (Hypothesis 4)
  • 2.5.5 Overview of Hypotheses
  • 3 Methods
  • 3.1 Assessment Design
  • 3.2 Independent Variables
  • 3.3 Dependent Variables
  • 3.3.1 The Moral Competence Test Measuring Moral Competence
  • 3.3.2 Testing the Validity Criteria
  • 3.4 KMDD and other Programs
  • 3.5 Sampling Procedure and Data Collection
  • 3.6 Estimating Effect Sizes
  • 3.7 Methodology and Ethics
  • 4 Empirical Results
  • 4.1 Moral Orientations Don’t Change During Imprisonment
  • 4.2 Low Moral Competence of Prisoners Decreases During Incarceration if Education is not institutionalized
  • 4.3 The Regression of Moral Competence occurs when Opportunities for Responsibility-Taking and Guided Reflection are Missing
  • 4.4 The KMDD Reverses the Negative Effects of Incarceration and Improves Moral Competence and Effect Criteria of Social Rehabilitation
  • 4.5 Overview of Results
  • 5 Discussion
  • 5.1 Fostering Moral Orientations in Social Rehabilitation: Carrying Coals to Newcastle
  • 5.2 Unfavorable Learning Environments Result in Regressions of Moral Competence
  • 5.3 The KMDD Can Increase Moral Competence Efficiently and Sustainably in the Execution of Sentence
  • 5.4 KMDD is a Respectful Start for Social Rehabilitation
  • 5.5 The Limits of this Study
  • 5.6 The Importance of this Study
  • 5.7 Recommendations for the Rehabilitation of Offenders
  • Bibliography
  • Appendix
  • Endnotes

List of Abbreviations

aES absolute Effect Size measure
BGH Federal Supreme Court (Bundesgerichtshof)
BVerfGE Federal Constitutional Court (Bundesverfassungsgericht)
BZR German Criminal Records Register (Bundeszentralregister)
C-Score Competence Score from the Moral Competence Test
MJI Moral Judgment Interview (Kohlberg)
MCT Moral Competence Test (Lind)
DIT Defining Issues Test (Rest)
GR Guided Reflection
JVA prison (Justizvollzugsanstalt)
KMDD Konstanz Method of Dilemma Discussion
LE Learning Environment
ORIGIN/u Questionnaire for assessing opportunities for Responsibility-Taking and Guided Reflection (university students)
rES relative Effect Size correlation measure (Pearson-Bravaicorrelation)
RT Responsibility-Taking
SRM-SF Socio-moral Reflection Measure – Short Form (Gibbs)
S Syllabus
SS Semi-Syllabus
STGB Penal code of Germany (Strafgesetzbuch)
StPO Code of criminal procedure of Germany (Strafprozessordnung)
StVollzG Penal law of Germany (Strafvollzugsgesetz)

← XIII | XIV →

List of Tables

Table 1: Daily Routine of a Prisoner

Table 2: Opportunities for Moral Learning in Pedagogic Approaches

Table 3: Comparison between Blatt-Kohlberg-Method and KMDD

Table 4: Phases of Support and Challenge in the KMDD

Table 5: Overview of Hypotheses

Table 6: Description of Prison Conditions

Table 7: Overview on Cross-Sections (targeted and realized Sample)

Table 8: Items for Responsibility-Taking and Guided Reflection in the study

Table 9: Numbers of Participant (Longitudinal)

Table 10: Three-factorial Experimental Design of the MCT

Table 11: KMDD-Interventions: Overview on used Dilemmas

Table 12: Trainings and Therapies of the Cross-Sections

Table 13: Rate of Recirculation and Description of Data Collection

Table 14: Rate of Recirculation for Control-1

Table 15: C-Score and Opinion Agreement (Cross-Sections)

Table 16: Absolute Effect Size of Treatment (C-Score)

Table 17: Relative effect size of the intervention (polynomial contrasts)

Table 18: Overview of Results

Table 19: Description of Cross-Sections

Table 20: Description of Longitudinal Section

Table 21: Trainings and Therapies of the Longitudinal Groups

← XIV | XV →

List of Figures

Figure 1: Affective Aspect of Incarcerated Offenders

Figure 2: Stability of Moral Orientations (Hypothesis 1, Idealized Depiction)

Figure 3: Effects of Incarceration in Remand Prison on C-Score (Hyp. 2.2)

Figure 4: Effects of Incarceration on C-Score (Hyp. 2.2, Cross-Section)

Figure 5: Stabilizing Effect of Education I (Hypothesis 2.3, Longitudinal)

Figure 6: Stabilizing Effect of Education II (Hypothesis 2.3, Cross-Section)

Figure 7: Prisons according to Learning Opportunities (Hyp. 3.1, idealized)

Figure 8: Effects of Learning Environment on Moral Competence (Hyp. 3.2)

Figure 9: Intervention Design (KMDD-Interventions in the Remand Center)

Figure 10: Prognosis of Effects for KMDD-Interventions (Hypothesis 4.1)

Figure 11: Absolute Effect Sizes on C-Score (Hypothesis 4.1)

Figure 12: Effects on C-Score for KMDD-3 (Hypothesis 4.1)

Figure 13: Effects on Feeling of secure Future for KMDD 1–3 (Hyp. 4.2a)

Figure 14: Effects on Well-Beeing for KMDD 1–3 (Hypothesis 4.2b)

Figure 15: Moral Competence: Differing Patterns of Responses to MCT

Figure 16: Validity Criterion I: Hierarchy of Moral Preferences


ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2014 (August)
moralische Kompetenz Rehabilitation Erziehungstheorie Gefängnisinsasse
Frankfurt am Main, Berlin, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Wien, 2014. XVIII, 148 pp., 37 b/w fig., 21 tables

Biographical notes

Kay Hemmerling (Author)

Kay Hemmerling holds degrees of Psychology from the Free University of Berlin and a PhD from the University of Konstanz. He is also a Hans-Böckler-Foundation Scholarship Holder.


Title: Morality Behind Bars