Monday, October 23, 2006


Two incidents today, (one for sure, one probable) of inmates manipulating staff. The volunteer instructor for the writing class had contact information for an inmate's relatives and had agreed to make contact. That's an old game, an old con and it usually ends very, very badly but there is the tiniest chance that she really had gathered the information in case the anthology was published.

The other one was a professional who should have known better. We work in a crowded jail. We have large dorms set aside for inmates with mental health issues. Some of those beds get filled by inmates without mental health issues due to crowding. Most of the time, it's not much of a problem- the 'normal' inmate realizes he's in a "crazy ward" and wants to get out, which happens as soon as a bed opens up. Some times it's an immediate problem, where the 'normal' inmate throws a fit and tries to bully his way out... so he goes to the hole. The worst, though, are the fairly sophisticated criminal who realizes that the psych dorms are relatively calm, quiet and a very safe and easy pool of victims who can be threatened or scammed for drugs, food or other favors and services. These predators will fake psychiatric issues or just request to remain there.

One of the staff members suggested that we keep an inmate in the mental health dorm who wasn't classified to mental health. We do that frequently, classifying some as "stabilizers" who can model mature and sane behavior and others as "PC" protective custody, inmates who because of size, gender identity or charges might be in danger in a normal dorm.

The staff member said that the inmate had requested to stay in the dorm because he was a federal inmate who was being hounded by the Attorney General because of a personal grudge based on a bar he used to own in the Pacific Northwest. Furthermore, the inmate claimed he had been living the high life as a fugitive south of the border for about a decade and was afraid it would hit the news. He thought he might need protective custody if he was on the news.

Let me get this straight- Alberto Gonzalez, the USAG has time for a personal feud with a two-bit dealer on the West Coast? Furthermore, the dealer feels that if other inmates find out he's been having fun in Mexico while evading US custody he's going to be hated? He'd be a celebrity. It's not just that the staffer fell for a story, we all fall for stories... but this was a stupid, illogical, senseless story. The staff member was gamed.

Here's something that even some experienced members of the law enforcemenet and criminal research fields miss:

Criminals do not see you as a person. They see you as a resource.

Not just the super predators, the violent robbers, the rapists, that ilk. The average low level hustler, the conman, the dealer and the prostitute sees you as a source for stuff that they want. Money. A feeling of power. A few minutes or a few days amusement.

They have no more feeling for you than you have for the can that your soup came in.

It's harsh, and so alien a view point that even right in your face, most people deny it. But it is a fact. If you are a really good, caring, compassionate person the person who rapes and murders you or robs you or cons you will not feel worse about it than if you were an asshole. If anything, he'll be happier because you made it easier. Like the soup cans with the pull tabs.

If one of two people had to die, an innocent child or a multiple murderer and you were forced to choose, you would use one of two criteria. Either you would decide who most deserved to die (whose absence would cost the world least) , in which case the murderer would be executed or you would decide who most deserved to live (whose presence would benefit the world more) in which case... the murderer would be executed.

A criminal's thought process would be totally different. One of them has to die? Which would be easiest and safest? The murderer might kill me back. Kill the child.

It's not quite that simple. Criminals live in society and most know the words to blend in. You have to read their secret journals or listen in when they think they are alone to catch them openly thinking like this- but you can see the tracks of this decision making process in every aspect of their lives.

Also, they aren't always stupid and can weigh the social repercussions of their actions- in which case they would execute the murderer so that they could blend in.

Years ago a new nurse- kind, loving and compassionate- asked my advice. She wanted to take an inmate home and wondered if she would get in trouble. Duh, yeah. Fired. She explained that the inmate was a "really sweet girl" who had never been in trouble before and had no family and no place to stay... she got all this right from the inmate who had "no reason to lie" and had no idea the nurse was thinking about offering her a place to stay. When dealing with criminals, always check facts.

I brought the nurse over to the computer and ran the "really sweet girl"'s extensive criminal history over the past ten years. Drugs, theft, prostitution, domestic violence... she'd lied about every last detail and nearly gotten a really nice person to throw away her career on a good deed just so she could have access to a home, a place to shoot, money through theft, intimidation or (once the nurse realized she could be fired) blackmail. Gamed.


Kai Jones said...

How in the world do they hang on to the dogged belief in the basic goodness of other people, when they are surrounded by more proof of the opposite than the rest of us see in a lifetime?

I don't believe people are intrinsically good--you have to choose good. Evil inclinations are always in us, and you have to fight them.

Anonymous said...

You have defined the main difference between cop and corrections, a definition that has never been articulated before, just attempted to be explained in metaphors or ego statements. COs are resources, cops are threats. But the bad guys react to us both the same -the game.