Document Type

Technical Report

Publication Date



Power, Correctional institutions -- United States


It is axiomatic in milieu therapy that the man on top is responsible for success or failure of the program. However, little research attention has been given to the impact of a superintendent upon an institution. One reason may be that only rarely is an institution's stewardship uncomplicated by a past history. This case report is of the first-year operation of a correctional institution for adolescent delinquent girls. The superintendent literally created policy and program and trained staff in an attempt to satisfy goals of custody and rehabilitation. In this relatively unique enterprise the values, dynamics and motives of the superintendent were reflected in the life of the institution.

The power invested in the superintendent in this particular setting is enhanced by an isolated location. Other employment is non-existent; commuting is not possible. Approximately a one-third population loss (i.e., 1,000 persons) has occurred during a period of extraordinary growth for every other county in the state. The institution is one of two large employers in the county. The resident population is about 60 girls with 40 staff members, none of whom are professionally trained.

Four variables will be discussed: (a) staff dependency upon the institution and the superintendent for most of their satisfactions; (b) unrecognized transference and counter-transference relationships; (c) communication; (d) discipline and counseling.


This is an extended report of Dana, R. H. (1964). The impact of fantasy on a residential treatment program. Corrective Psychiatry and Journal of Social Therapy, 10, 202-212.

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