Friday, December 11, 2009

Criminal Thinking 4

Here's the next installment in my replay of "Criminal Thinking". It's original posting date was July 22, 2008.

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.


Watery Tart said...

This is FASCINATING stuff, Terry. As a psychologist I am interested in how a person LEARNS that kind of thinking. Is it survival 101 from within the walls, or is part of that street observation stuff too.

What I REALLY want to do is WRITE that transformation. Maybe I have a prison in a future book somewhere... thanks for the food for thought!

Carol Kilgore said...

I agree with Watery Tart that this is fascinating. Their observation skills are amazing. I've seen this power thing in action, though. Normal, non-criminal thinkers need to be aware when someone tries it on them. You almost instantly feel something is wrong with you until you realize what's going on. They count on you falling into their trap. Take a hard-sell sales person and ramp that attitude up several degrees and you come close.

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

Oh, I love this kind of thing.

The prison stats are kind of depressing, aren't they? Not that I imagined them to really be any different, but it would be nice if the 'scared straight' number was a little higher.

Mystery Writing is Murder

Anonymous said...

It IS fascinating. I have to add one more tidbit--the largest purchaser of hi-lo books? (Books of high interest but a low reading level) You guessed it, the U.S. prison system.

Terry Odell said...

Greetings all from cold Colorado. I agree that this topic is one that is fascinating (and scary, and depressing). I'm glad it's helpful and of interest to you.