Contrary to popular belief, therapy can help some psychopaths stay out of prison
Photo illustration by E. Otwell, Background/Bodies: Rubberball/Superstock, Model faces: Sensorspot/iStockphoto
Nudity, mind-altering drugs and encounter groups bring out the worst in psychopaths behind bars. That’s not a pitch for a new reality television show — not yet, at least. It’s an evidence-based conclusion. An infamous experimental treatment program for violent criminals, conducted mainly from 1968 to 1978 in a Canadian maximum security psychiatric facility 90 miles north of Toronto, tried those tactics to prepare men for life on the outside. Offenders with psychopathic personalities graduated from the program more violent than ever.
The results of that study played a big part in stoking fears, still common today, that psychopaths exploit psychological treatments to become better criminals. Mounting evidence indicates, however, that better-designed prison programs can help criminals with psychopathic personalities live less violently once released, says psychologist Devon Polaschek of Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand.
In the Canadian