Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Inside the Criminal Mind: Criminal Thinking, Part 5

To Change a Criminal: Corrective Thinking

Change is only possible when a criminal makes a choice to change.

When does a person change? When they are ready, and not a moment sooner.
The objective is to teach criminals to live without injuring others
Note: this comes right back to Malinowski's opening statement about concern for victims.

Corrective Thinking means:

Strict standards
No "feel good" stuff
No shortcuts
No rewards for doing what is expected – "Until your desperation factor exceeds your embarrassment factor, you are not a candidate for transformation."

Remember: Criminals Think Differently!

Change is a 4-letter world
W – O – R – K

The Change Process:
The most important part of the change process must be conducted in the community.

It is a pipe dream to release criminals from institutions and expect them to function responsibly without guidance in a world for which they are not equipped.

To change one hard-core criminal means saving society from an incalculable injury.

Some parting bits and pieces…

The number one fear of the hard core criminal is fear of the dark, of being alone. When they're alone, they're bored, and forced to face who they really are.

Malinowski also spoke of sex offenders. The sex offender isn't necessarily as big a threat to the general population as the media suggests. 90% of child molesters are family, or known to the child. That means only 10% are "strangers"or "predators"

Sex offenders have a very low (5.3%) recidivism rate, in some part because of the strict protocols of registering, etc.

As an aside: Malinowski pointed out he lives on a cul-de-sac of 5 homes, one of which holds a family with 2 daughters. While he understands that the mother would like to know if there are sexual predators in the neighborhood (and again, remember the actual "predators" are rare – only 10% of sexual offenders), Malinowski would rather know if the guy who lives behind him has ever been arrested for breaking and entering. There's no registry for other crimes.

Lee's comment yesterday about not sharing personal information with inmates is another point Malinowski made—my examples showed how valuable even the most trivial-seeming piece of information can be. In my first post, I mentioned that staff should never have family pictures in their offices, as this is just one more piece of information the inmates will 'collect'.

For a closer look at how the inmates are always on the 'con', check this site.

Prison 'myths' we've learned from watching movies and television: (Note, these facts are from the Florida prison system, and may not be the same elsewhere.)

There's no air conditioning. As I type this at 6:30 pm, it's 87 degrees outside. There's also no heat, although in Florida, that's not going to be a comfort problem nearly as many days of the year as the hot days. Summer lasts about 8 months here.

The law library in a Florida prison is about half a wall in size, and most of the books are out of date.

There's no fancy gym. In fact, due to budget cuts, even the weight stacks might no longer be available. Hot prisoners with no way to burn off steam?

Meals. They get three minutes (yes, THREE) to eat. No talking.

There are no computers. No Internet access. Phone calls are regulated.

You know all those movie and television scenes where the inmate has a visitor? Well, the visitors are patted down very extensively before entering the room. Did you know the prisoners are strip searched before and after they leave that room? Every time. So if it's an all day visit, there's a morning and an afternoon session. That's 4 strip searches.

The hottest commodity at the moment: cell phones. They appear as if by magic, it seems. Recently, due to a fluke, one smuggling scheme was uncovered. It seems a major book chain sends surplus books to prisons. Per regulation, each book is individually shrink wrapped, boxed, and shipped via carrier (I think he said UPS, but I'm not sure – doesn't really matter). They're offloaded and sent to the prison library. One day, a receiving clerk had a little more time than usual, and instead of sending the cartons directly to the library, she opened them to look at the books. As she lifted them out, she saw three copies of one title. But they didn't feel to be the same weight. She opened them and found one of them contained three cell phones. Someone on the inside had arranged with someone at the book store to smuggle in the phones. They can't black out the prison for cell signals, though, because that's how the corrections officers (they don't call them guards anymore) communicate.

I hope you've found these posts interesting and informative. I got my ARCs (Advance Reader Copies) of When Danger Calls yesterday and will have to read them for errors. It's tedious and time consuming, and a totally different kind of read. But so cool to get the story as a "book" for the first time.


Anonymous said...

Excellent Series, Terry. Thanks for the reminder. I had read part one, but missed all the others. I printed it out and just enjoyed a period of quiet time, reading with a cup of tea.

Liana Laverentz

Katie Reus said...

I finally got to read these. Very informative (and a little disturbing - the way criminals think). Thanks Terry!

Connie Flynn said...

I hope you've found these posts interesting and informative.

Absolutely, Terry. Thanks so much for taking the time to summarize this fascinating information. I put it on my computer so I can print it out later and really study the info. This will change the way I write villains.

Ray said...

I loved this series. I wish there were more. I just heard about a prison that is training dogs to sniff out cell phones. As a demonstration for the reporter a phone was hidden inside a mechanical device: A/C duct, electrical panel or something like that. Within seconds the dog found the cell phone. Phone sniffing dogs are as good at their jobs as bomb sniffing dogs. I wonder if your instructor could use that information.


Terry Odell said...

Thanks, Liana, Katie & Connie. Good to know I could share what I learned.

Ray, Mr. Malinowski left us an email contact; I'll pass on your comment about the dogs.

Everyone: I neglected to include a bibliography, which I'll try to get posted. Probably tomorrow.

Jude Mason said...

TErry, this was an incredibly interesting series, thank you so much for posting it all. Human behaviour, whether it's what we'd class as deviant or not, fascinates me. Why do we do what we do? The mind of a criminal has got to be different, but so many people assume they can just tsk tsk and the problem will be solved. This really sheds some light and I really enjoyed reading it.


Neil Plakcy said...

Wow, what terrific stuff, Terry. Thanks so much for posting it all.

Thinking Matters said...

I work with cognitive behavioral programs based on Dr Samenow's work. there is a program called Thinking Matters that uses work sheets to teach pro social cognitive skills. It can be found at:

I hope some of you find it useful & interesting.


Terry Odell said...

Moe, thanks for the link.