Friday, July 18, 2008

Inside the Criminal Mind: Criminal Thinking, Part 2

What I'm writing: Chapter 10

A brief recap: Malinowski defines "criminal" as someone who lives a lifestyle of crime. To a criminal, the usual boundaries of authority don't apply.

In his presentation, Malinowski also stressed the difference between cause and influence. For example, poverty does not cause crime, but it definitely influences it. For Malinowski, the personal motivation that gives meaning to his job stems from his belief that a criminal has three basic choices.

1. Continue the life of crime. This will result in the criminal returning to prison, dying on the streets, or dying in prison.
2. Suicide. Not a recommendation but nonetheless, still a 'choice'. Fear keeps most criminals from suicide.
3. Change. Must be deep change. Without deep change, there is only slow death, so change becomes a "life vs. death" choice.
His goal is to help offenders see the need for change, and to give them the tools they need to effect it.

A quick statistic: 97% of incarcerated people get out of prison. (Often many times,) Only 3% die in prison, either by the death penalty, of natural causes, or at the hand of other prisoners. In the Florida system, there are 100,000 inmates, and 129,000 who are out "under supervision."

Malinowski suggested that the next time you go to eat at a restaurant like Denny's, or Applebees, or TGI Friday's, you take a look around the back. Are there bicycles parked there? Odds are good that these belong to people who are recently out of prison, perhaps on a work release program. Since they can't hold a driver's license, they'll bike to work.

He told us of receiving a phone call (by law, they're required to answer all telephone calls from prisoners so they can't claim they tried to get in touch with them but couldn't reach them) from a recently released inmate. He went on and on about how he'd gotten with the program, had a place to live (girlfriend), checked in with a parole officer, and had a job lined up (graphic artist) that would pay him $1700. Malinowski didn't recall the name, so he looked it up in the prison computer system. The guy had been arrested 22 times, and had been in prison 5 times. He was calling because he needed $80 to rent the airbrush equipment so he could do the job and get paid, and to him, the easiest and fastest way to the money was to call the instructor of the Life Skills class.

One side note – why the picture of the binder clips? The stacks of class handouts were fastened with these clips. After unclipping them to pass them out, David's colleague automatically hooked the clips together and put them in his pocket, whereas we would probably just leave them on the table. Why? Because if you remove the prongs from the clip, they'll unlock a pair of handcuffs.

Along those lines, Nike once manufactures some elite shoes with chrome tips on the laces (anyone know the correct term for those tips? I did, which was my moment of fame in the class) which also were perfect for unlocking cuffs.


Neil Plakcy said...

Great stuff, Terry! Thanks so much for posting it.

Terry Odell said...

Thanks, Neil -- There will be more. I'm not through my notes or the handouts yet! Maybe tomorrow, but I really swore I was taking weekends off from blogging!

Guess you'll have to check in to find out.

Jude Mason said...

Awesome post, Terry. I'm really enjoying this and learning how these people think is amazing. Thanks so much for sharing this stuff.


Maryann Miller said...

Terry, thanks for taking the time to post all this great information for us. Really helpful stuff to understand why we can't understand criminal behavior. :-)

Terry Odell said...

Jude, Maryann - Glad to share what I'm learning. Next time, I'll talk a little about the "real" prison life in the Florida prisons. It isn't what we see on television!

Anonymous said...

Hi, Terry,

Thanks for sharing this great information.

Elaine Cantrell

Lee Lofland said...


Terry Odell said...

Right Lee. I once totally screwed up a prof's lecture in an education class on teaching reading -- something about how to decipher words that you didn't know the meaning of using context clues, but he started by writing the word on the chalkboard, and said something like, "and nobody know what this is," but I knew, so I said it. He didn't know how to continue.

And if it were anyone other than you, I'd probably accuse them of looking it up first, but I'm sure you knew it.

Lee Lofland said...

I remembered it from an episode of Jeopardy.

Terry Odell said...

Ah, Lee -- the things we remember. Now, I remember what an aglet is, but have no clue where I first learned it.

If only the important stuff would stick in my brain.

Ray said...

I recently finished a novel in which the villain would alternate between saying he was nothing and self importance. He would fixate on a woman and then believe she was in love with him. When she didn't return the feelings as expected he would disfigure or kill the woman. He found a couple of books in the prison library that hooked him on a certain romance author. He believed the books were written personally to him. When he broke out of prison he went after her to kidnap her and show her he was her hero.

So much of this post fits the novel I read.

Thank you,


Terry Odell said...

Ray -- I think I read that book, too. Or at least one that fits.

Tempting Evil, by Allison Brennan. Did you have a different one? Allison does her homework about researching her bad guys.

Ray said...


That was the one. Didn't know if I should mention the name on the blog.


adele said...

I have watched each episode of Criminal Minds,Mandy Patinkin turns anything he's in to pure gold, and I hope "Criminal Minds" will get a long run! Great show!!! Enjoi it Watch Criminals Mind Free here...