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Morality Behind Bars

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

Kay Hemmerling

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.


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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-Bravai- correlation) 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)

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