Friday, December 18, 2009

Criminal Thinking 5

This is the last installment of my notes from David Malinowski's workshop on Criminal Thinking, presented to the Civilian Police Academy Alumni in July, 2008. I suggest you read the other 4 parts first, if you haven't. I've run them for the last 4 Fridays, so they should be easy to find. This post originally ran in late July 2008 (worth noting with weather references).

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 word.
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.

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.

Added note: Dogs are being trained to sniff out cell phones.


Skhye said...

Wow! Excellent information, Terry. The candidate for transformation is an interesting note. I think everything is a 4-letter word! LOL But it's refreshing to see the point applied here. And dogs being trained to sniff out cell phones? Times are a-changing... Thanks for sharing this information. Happy Holidays!

Huge prize: a cache of Time-Guardian treasure. To enter, join me at:

Terry Odell said...

Thanks, Skhye - as writers, we have to get inside our characters' heads, and I found this workshop fascinating. Happy to share.

jenny milchman said...

Great series, Terry! I love all the insider info. Cell phones seem to give way to great plot wrinkles in ALL walks of life.

Katie Reus said...

I've been a lurker but thanks for another great post. The cell phone thing is awesome :)

Terry Odell said...

Jenny, Katie - thanks for commenting. Based on searches, the criminal thinking posts are popular. Glad you're enjoying them, publically or otherwise!

Carol Kilgore said...

Thanks for posting all these, Terry. Good stuff.

The Old Silly said...

Very informative post. Glad I stopped by, love your blog and the meaty topics you tackle. I agree with all this, actually learned a couple thangs, lol, but I would add that NO ONE changes, even "law abiding citizens" unless they themselves WANT to change and are ready to do the work necessary. Drinking problems, bad health habits, smoking, foul language, abusive behavior, etc., - that's why so many relationships fail. the one party figures he/she can help "change" the other party, but unless that person WANTS to change ...

no banana.

I'll be back - thanks for visiting my blog today.

Marvin D Wilson

Terry Odell said...

Glad you came by, Marvin.
I think we both agree (as does Malinowski). As he said, "Change is only possible when a criminal makes a choice to change" and that definitely applies to ALL behavior. Now, if I could only change my chocolate-eating behavior!

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

It's amazing to me that criminals will risk going back to prison...especially considering the conditions and treatment you mentioned. I would do ANYthing to keep from being there! These folks really do think differently.

Dogs are unbelievable, aren't they?

Mystery Writing is Murder

Terry Odell said...

Elizabeth, so true. It's hard to imagine anyone choosing that life, but who knows what life is like for them on the outside.

The Old Silly said...

I would LOVE to be a guest on this blog. Me, or perhaps my alter-ego, Owen Fiddler, your choice, or both, lol. Either way, we'll be i bloggy touch, fo sho!