European critical psychological trends

An open road to psychological recidivism

Authored by: Ángel J. Gordo López , Roberto Rodríguez López

Handbook of Critical Psychology

Print publication date:  April  2015
Online publication date:  April  2015

Print ISBN: 9781848722187
eBook ISBN: 9781315726526
Adobe ISBN: 9781317537182


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In a recent study on traffic policies we learned about Ichihara Prison for Traffic Offenders, a groundbreaking initiative established in Japan in 1969 as a governmental response to a significant growth in traffic accidents (Johnson 1991). Under the supervision of Haruo Sato, the first traffic warden who was also a psychologist, the authorities sought to make the prison’s environment as similar as possible to life in the free community. As stated in The White Paper on Transportation Safety in Japan’85, traffic offenders are ‘allowed to enjoy a freedom of atmosphere’ and ‘they are given special corrective education for the purpose of cultivating the spirit of law observation, sense of responsibility, respect for human life, and other moral considerations through daily activities’ (cited in Johnson 1991: 65). The main orientation of the moral re-education programs adopted in Ichihara is to be found in Nakian therapy (‘inner self observation’), and was to move inmates toward more positive social behaviours. This therapeutic approach is applied as follows:

For two weeks some half-dozen residents, who have volunteered for the therapy, go to a solitary cell in the receiving cell block on weekdays from 5:30 to 9:30 p.m., on Saturdays afternoons, and all day on Sundays. Staff members go from cell to cell, asking what the individuals are thinking and advising them on how to think about themselves, but offering no specific advice. It is expected that the traffic incident will dominate the inmate’s inner observation.

(Johnson 1997: 147) In this way responsibility was shifted from the structural level of our culture of mobility (of transport communication based on cars), and the way it reflects and reproduces social differences, to the traffic authorities and juridical-political system and finally to focus on drivers’ attitudes and self-observation through therapeutic practices.

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