How would Maslow’s theory of human needs apply to explain the behavior of staff and inmates in a juvenile correctional institution?

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pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs could be used to explain these people’s behaviors because it helps to explain what motivates people to act in certain ways.  Maslow argued that people have to have their needs met on one level before they can be motivated to act based on the factors from any of the higher levels of the hierarchy.

In the context of a juvenile correctional facility, it is likely that both staff and inmates will have their physiological needs met.  However, it is also likely that at least some people in those facilities will feel that their safety needs are not being met.  This might be particularly true of some of the younger or weaker inmates.  Therefore, if some inmates, for example, do not seem to be interested in doing anything to improve themselves, it may be because they do not feel safe.  If they do something like joining a gang inside the facility, it may be because they want to have some way to feel safe.

If someone feels safe but does not feel accepted, that might also affect their behaviors.  For example, inmates might act in ways that are not helpful to their futures.  They might do so because they want to feel accepted.  They might feel that acting out against authority will make others accept them more.

In these ways, we might be able to explain some of the behaviors we see in such a facility by referring to Maslow’s hierarchy.