Theoretical Background

Theoretical background

Prison SMART offers a positive, strength-based + risk reduction approach and methodology in congruence with the following criminology theories:

Positive Psychology

  • Promotion of wellbeing and individual potential rather than focus on psychosocial deficits – equip people with skills to fulfil their needs and realise their interests and live a happy and fulfilled life
  • Strength-based


Positive Criminology

  • Focus on experiences, effects which are experienced as positive and remove the individual from destructive behavior and crime
  • through programs and interventions or based on positive social or personal factors (such as resilience, positive emotions and attitudes, belief, moral, experiences of human goodness,…)
  • Argues for introduction of more positive approaches and elements in treatment and programs


The way we think and feel and how we behave according to our feelings are mostly negative. Not many people know that by controlling our breathing we can control our feelings and therefore control our behaviors.

Good Lives Model (GLM)

  • All people, including perpetrators, naturally look for specific “human goods”
  • When these human goods are fulfilled, one experiences a high level of wellbeing
  • Criminal behavior originates when individuals lack the internal and external opportunities to realise these human goods in a pro-social way
  • In order not to reengage in criminal behavior, individuals need the knowledge, skills and opportunities to realise their human goods and lead a good life.
  • Focus on human goods in the treatment of perpetrators provides huge chance of reducing or removing standard dynamical factors. Exclusive focus on the reduction of risk factors does not always develop the primary human goods which are necessary for desistance on the longer term. (Ward, 2007)
  • Research studies showing the effectiveness of GLM for rehabilitation of perpetrators:

ü  Focus on “Good Life” reduces anxiety (Ryan & Deci,2000)

ü  Increasing self-esteem through human good of inner peace correlates with reduction in deviant sexual desires. (Marshall, 1997)


Both GLM and Prison SMART focus on primary human aspirations of perpetrators + empowering them with skills to realise this good lives plan, believing that also perpetrators possess expertise and talents to contribute to society.

GLM human goods present in the Prison SMART program include: health, knowledge, inner peace, connection, spirituality, happiness, ability in work and activity, creativity,… In addition, Prison SMART also strengthens the internal conditions to realise human goods, such as skills, values and attitudes.


Resilience / Desistance Model

Resilience refers to successfully enabling wellbeing under stress. It is a multidimensional concept consisting of several factors which are a central focus of the Prison SMART program:

  • Individual Factors: assertiveness, ability to solve problems, ability to live with uncertainty, self-awareness, a positive outlook, empathy for others, having goals and aspirations, ability to maintain a balance between independence and dependence on others, appropriate use of or abstinence from substances like alcohol and drugs, a sense of humour, a sense of duty (to others or self, depending on the culture)
  • Relationships Factors: appropriate emotional expression, social competence, the presence of a positive mentor and role models, meaningful relationships with others at school, home, and perceived social support, peer group acceptance
  • Cultural Factors: tolerance for different ideologies and beliefs, self-betterment, having a life philosophy, cultural and/or spiritual identification