Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Inside the Criminal Mind: Criminal Thinking, Part 4

What I'm reading: The Drifter by Susan Wiggs

What I'm writing: Chapter 11, scene 2

Back to Criminal Thinking

Some more statistics …

In a typical prison population:

20% are "scared straight" by the experience and won't be back
20% are "hard core" and will never change, no matter what
30% are still doing crime while they're incarcerated
30% want to change but don't know how.

The last group has the best chance for the requisite "deep change", but according to Malinowski, the last two groups tend to flip flop, often influenced by the other two.

More interesting tidbits: Picture two women standing around talking, holding purses. An addict will look at them and see money to buy drugs. A criminal will think, "They have MY money."

Criminals want power and control, regardless of what form it might take. They're observant.

Malinowski drove a truck. Parking for the prison is some distance away, so it's a long walk to the entrance. He drove the truck on his first visit to a prison, but the next time, he used his wife's car. When he was inside, an inmate said, "Where's your truck?" He had observed the original vehicle, but in this case, didn't see Malinowski get out of the other car. Yet he knew he'd driven something different.

Likewise, he used to wear a straw hat, more so the guards would be ready to unlock the gate than because he was a hat person. He didn't wear it inside. The first time he showed up without it, an inmate asked about it, which means these folks find ways to know everyone's comings and goings. It's not like they can sit in the parlor and watch the world go by. Word gets around.

Another time he walked down a corridor carrying a briefcase and a video cassette. He entered a room, put the video on the table for the next day, and left. Probably took less time than it did to type this. Later, an inmate asked what was on the video. They watch, they notice, because any detail might be useful.

Malinowski spoke of an assignment he gave to his class relatively early in his career. At the time, he used the large flip-charts in his classroom. An inmate came up after class and proposed an elaboration on the assignment, complete with diagrams and charts. He asked for a piece of paper so he could do a presentation. Mr. M, as they call him, agreed and tore of a sheet. The inmate then asked for one more, in case he messed up. All very polite, very eager. Mr. M gave him the second sheet.

The next day, that inmate didn't show up. Instead, he sent someone else to demonstrate his plan, saying inmate #1 had been transferred. The inmate brought one of the sheets of paper, complete with diagrams, etc. BUT, inmate #1 knew he was being transferred. Knew darn well he would never be going to the next class. However, he had Power, because he had scammed two sheets of paper (and if you recall, those old flip charts are BIG). There are countless uses for paper, not the least of which is turning it into a weapon.

Looks like it's going to take at least one more day to finish. Please come back!


SLING WORDS aka Joan Reeves said...

Thanks, Terry.

Terry Odell said...

You're welcome, Joan -- tell your friends to stop by, too!

Lee Lofland said...

I agree with every single line in this post. I'd also like to add one more point (I hope that's okay).

Inmates crave any sort of contact and information about life beyond the walls. So, they hang on every word spoken by officers, administrative staff, medical staff, maintenance workers, etc.

The employees may be carrying on what they consider a not-so-important conversation, but to the lonely inmate each word can be a treasure. While attempting to learn about new technology or the changing neighborhoods (remember some of these guys have never seen a DVD or a new five-dollar bill) they're able to pick up tidbits of personal information about prison employees.

Also, many of the inmates come from the same neighborhoods as the staff members. Those guys always know juicy details.

Prison employees should be on guard every moment of their shift.

Terry Odell said...

Lee -
Thanks for your additions (and more along these lines is already standing by for tomorrow's post.)

Roberta Isleib said...

These posts are totally fascinating Terry! Thanks for sharing the info.

Roberta Isleib

Maryann Miller said...

Terry, thanks again for taking the time to share what you have been learning. Much appreciated.

Ray said...


Thanks for an interesting addition to the three previous posts.

The only experience I have ever had with inmates was a few months spent in charge of the medical clinic in the Norfolk VA Naval Brig. I did learn the meaning of malingering.


Doug M.Cummings said...

When I was a deputy sheriff, we occasionally had to come in off the road and work the jail. My first time there, a veteran CO told me something I'll always remember. "Don't ever f**k with these people. You work here eight hours a day but they have 24/7/365 to figure out payback."