Association for Behavior Analysis International

The Association for Behavior Analysis International® (ABAI) is a nonprofit membership organization with the mission to contribute to the well-being of society by developing, enhancing, and supporting the growth and vitality of the science of behavior analysis through research, education, and practice.


45th Annual Convention; Chicago, IL; 2019

Event Details

Previous Page


Symposium #250
CE Offered: BACB
Behavioral Assessment and Treatment With Juvenile and Adult Offenders
Sunday, May 26, 2019
11:00 AM–12:50 PM
Fairmont, B2, Imperial Ballroom
Area: CSS; Domain: Applied Research
Chair: P. Raymond Joslyn (Berry College)
Discussant: Timothy R. Vollmer (University of Florida)
CE Instructor: P. Raymond Joslyn, Ph.D.

Behavior analysis has been shown to be effective in addressing behavior in a multitude of populations and settings. However, there are still many populations that remain underserved and understudied in behavior analysis. The current symposium will address various methods of assessment and treatment for criminal offenders, an understudied population. The first presentation will cover a multicomponent intervention to reduce problem behavior and multipharmaceutical interventions with adolescent offenders diagnosed with intellectual disabilities. The second presentation will discuss a study on the use of rules, role playing, and feedback to increase appropriate behavior with adjudicated adolescents. The third presentation will cover the use of relative risk to determine high- and low- risk environmental and behavioral factors related to severe aggression in juvenile offenders. Finally, the last presentation will discuss the use of behavioral interventions such as differential reinforcement to increase appropriate behavior and decrease inappropriate behavior with adult male prisoners. Implications and future directions will also be discussed.

Instruction Level: Intermediate
Keyword(s): criminal offenders, delinquency, high-risk behavior, restrictive settings
Target Audience:

Behavior analysts who currently work with or are interested in working nontraditional populations such as juvenile offenders, prisoners, and/or ID offenders would benefit from the research in this symposium.

Learning Objectives: Attendees will be able to: 1) Describe current research in the area of juvenile delinquency. 2) Discuss some potential challenges and obstacles for behavior analysts working in prisons. 3) Describe interventions that can reduce reliance on psychotropic medication for individuals with severe problem behavior.

Residential Behavioral Treatment and the Withdrawal of Polypharmaceutical Treatment in Adolescents
With Intellectual and Other Developmental Disabilities

Duncan Pritchard (Aran Hall School), HEATHER PENNEY (Aran Hall School), Veda Richards (Aran Hall School)

Psychotropic medication is frequently used to treat behavior disorders in adolescents with intellectual and other developmental disabilities, despite the risk of severe side-effects from the medication. A multi-component behavioral intervention was associated with a reduction in severe problem behavior presented by three male adolescents attending a residential program in the UK. Prior to their admission to the program, the three young people had been prescribed 3-4 psychotropic medications by community-based psychiatrists. None of the participants were attending school prior to their admission to the program and two had received criminal convictions. Alongside intensive behavioral treatment concurrent with systematic withdrawal of their psychotropic medication, the participants all attended the on-site school and gained a range of awards and qualifications. They were also able to participate in staff supported community-based activities such as food and clothes shopping, visits to the cinema, sports events, and restaurants. During their time in the program, two of the young people went on to attend college and work experience. The success of the behavioral treatment concurrent with the withdrawal of the medication perhaps demonstrates that the increasing prevalence of polypharmacy should be questioned by behavior analysts.


Rules, Role-Play, and Feedback Increase Appropriate Reactions of Adolescent Males Who Have Been Adjudicated

KRISTEN BROGAN (Auburn University), John T. Rapp (Auburn University), Anna Kate Edgemon (Auburn University), Amanda Niedfeld (Auburn University), Jodi Coon (Auburn University), Kelli Thompson (Auburn University), Barry Burkhart (Auburn University)

Adolescents who have been adjudicated may engage in excess behavior immediately following verbal directives or reprimands from staff. Excess behavior may include verbal aggression, indices of disrespect (e.g., eye rolling, grunting, obscene gestures), or even physical aggression. These excess behaviors may evoke further directives or reprimands from staff which in turn escalates the excess behavior. These cyclical interactions may result in severe consequences for both staff (e.g., risk of injury, involvement in an incident report) and adolescents (e.g., risk of injury, time out). Teaching adolescents who are detained to respond appropriately to staff directives and reprimands may produce large collateral changes in the way staff interact with adolescents in detention facilities. We taught eleven adolescent males who had been adjudicated to respond appropriately to staff directives and reprimands through the use of behavioral skills training. All participants showed low percentages of appropriate reactions in baseline and high percentages of appropriate reactions during treatment and generalization sessions. Implications of programming to teach appropriate reactions to diverse populations are discussed.


Risk Assessment of Severe Aggression With Detained Juvenile Offenders

P. RAYMOND JOSLYN (Berry College), Timothy R. Vollmer (University of Florida)

Although functional assessment is an ideal approach for developing behavioral treatment, there are some scenarios in which it is difficult or infeasible. For behaviors that occur infrequently and are extremely dangerous, obtaining objective and reliable information can be challenging. For example, it would be unethical and dangerous to conduct a functional analysis of aggression that is likely to result in severe injury to staff members and it would be difficult to obtain indirect information if the behavior occurs infrequently. However, relative risk can be used to determine risk and protective factors for the occurrence of these difficult-to-assess behaviors. A relative risk calculation compares the conditional (factor-specific) rate or probability of a behavior to the unconditional (overall) rate or probability to provide information about conditions in which the behavior is more or less likely to occur. The current study was conducted in a long-term detention facility for juvenile offenders. We used environmental and resident behavior characteristics to calculate relative risk for severe aggression. Examination of specific factors such as the time of day, day of week, location, and latency to first instance of behavior indicated risk and protective factors for severe aggression. Implications for treatment, assessment, and future research are discussed.

Behaviour Analytic Interventions for Offenders in Secure Prisons: Opportunities and Challenges
CHRISTOPHER SEEL (University of South Wales), Jennifer L. Austin (University of South Wales)
Abstract: Behaviour analytic interventions hold great promise for improving outcomes for offenders in secure correctional facilities, despite the relative dearth of behaviour analysts working in these settings. This presentation will use multiple case examples to demonstrate the utility of reinforcement-based interventions in a UK prison housing nearly 2000 male offenders. For example, one case (Figure 1) demonstrates how a differential reinforcement of alternative behaviour (DRA) procedure increased prisoner engagement in education. Results showed that access to tokens exchangeable for cleaning tasks and certificates of accomplishment resulted in more consistent engagement in education sessions. However, positive changes were moderated by the presence of punitive procedures implemented by prison staff. A second case (Figure 2) demonstrates how a differential reinforcement of other behaviour (DRO) procedure decreased a prisoner’s unwarranted visits to the staff office. Visits decreased when the prisoner accessed to one-to-one staff attention and stationery contingent on absence of office interruptions. However, treatment effects were less stable when implementation was transferred to prison staff. We will highlight challenges of working in prison environments, including the volatility of the setting, dealing with procedural integrity compromises when transferring intervention implementation to prison officers, and addressing prison officer perspectives on appropriate strategies for behaviour change.



Back to Top
Modifed by Eddie Soh