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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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4 Empirical Results


This study deals with the question whether the “Konstanz Method of Dilemma Discussion (KMDD)” is an applicable and effective instrument for social reha- bilitation. For this purpose the impacts of the KMDD on moral competence of incarcerated offenders, and other criteria for achievement in social rehabilitation are focused on. The results are presented according to the specific questions and hypotheses formulated for this investigation. 4.1 Moral Orientations Don’t Change During Imprisonment As reported in the theory section according to the Dual-Aspects-Theory fos- tering moral orientations in social rehabilitation can be neglected because pris- oners and non-prisoners don’t differ in regard to them. According to Kohlberg (1984) and Lind (2002) the arguments on higher moral stages are universally stronger accepted than arguments on lower stages. The means for acceptability of the six moral types are analyzed64. According to the affective aspect prison- ers in the present study show a typical preference hierarchy of moral orientations as depicted in Figure 21. The main effect of the factor orientation type is r = 0.35 which can be regarded as big. Preference values with respect to moral ori- entation of the incarcerated have shown in the MCT the predicted monotonous ascent of the ranking. The results show a slight change according to the theoretic predictions in regard to the type preferences 1 and 2. An analysis according to the dilemma context (work/doctor) showed that the prisoners in the doctor- dilemma rejected an argumentation on the type 2 at the most. Further prisoners – like other groups...

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