Betsy Speicher

Inside the Criminal Mind

Rate this book   5 votes

  1. 1. Rate this book

    • 10
      1
    • 9
      4
    • 8
      0
    • 7
      0
    • 6
      0
    • 5
      0
    • 4
      0
    • 3
      0
    • 2
      0
    • 1
      0
    • 0
      0

Please sign in or register to vote in this poll.

16 posts in this topic

This is a really excellent book. Samenow has some brilliant insights into criminal thinking that help to explain their choices. He calls on his extensive experience to illustrate and reinforce several themes of criminal behavior and to show how traditional thinking on the subject is wrong. He says unequivocally that treating the criminal as a victim of poverty or unemployment or mental illness is just to be conned by one of his tricks in the game of manipulating others. The criminal uses the honest person’s capacity for empathy and guilt in order to control them. He learn this early on as a child, blackmailing parents with good behavior and crying child abuse to authorities when he doesn’t get what he wants. As an adult, he uses or manufacturers victimhood in order to con the system into letting him back on the street faster. In prison, many criminals become model inmates to gain favors from guards and to get released early, only to commit more crimes. People are quick to conclude from good behavior that a criminal has reformed, while the thinking methods have not changed.

The focus on thinking patterns is really the special strength of the book. It allows Samenow to make insights that I’d never considered before. For example, the career criminal goes through frequent bouts of guilt. He also has a “good side”, may show tenderness toward children or animals, and there may be certain crimes that are unthinkable to him. Most people take this as a potential that he can be reformed, a sign that he is “at heart” a good person. In reality, the criminal uses these aspects of his personality to convince himself that he’s a flawed but decent human being, and therefore doesn’t need to change his ways. His redeeming features aren’t redeeming at all; they are what keep him a criminal. I think this speaks to the fact that no one can be aware of his own evil and remain evil. Evil requires evasion of itself.

There is also a fascinating chapter on therapy for criminals to correct their thinking, which requires that he report his thoughts and the therapist be vigilant in challenging each and every one of them as many times as it takes for the thinking patterns to change. As the criminal becomes more aware of his thoughts, he is even able to predict what he might think in certain situations and plan out what he should do. It’s an intensive, slow-moving process that is unlike any other that has been tried on criminals. And unlike any other program, this one begins not with making him feel better about himself by venting emotions, but painting such an accurately horrific picture of himself that he is forced to stop making excuses and change.

The book has a few minor but easily overlooked flaws, given how great it is on the whole. Samenow doesn’t have the proper ethical language to describe a criminal’s behavior, so he often defines him as selfish or as a nonconformist. Also, in his discussion of what he calls “habilitation” or “integration” (arguing that “rehabilitation” and “reintegration” don’t apply, since the criminal rejected society from the beginning), he seems to dismiss punitive models as failed attempts to reform. I still believe a criminal deserves to be punished for his crimes, even if he qualifies for habilitation. However, I do think that the possibility that a criminal could be reformed would remove the temptation to leave him in prison out of fear that he would harm others. Many criminals might see one prison sentence, finish this program, be released and never offend again. That would be incredible, and I hope that the techniques Samenow describes continue to show success and are more widely used.

I’d give the book a 9.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
[...] Many criminals might see one prison sentence, finish this program, be released and never offend again. That would be incredible, and I hope that the techniques Samenow describes continue to show success and are more widely used.

Is it your view/example of sentencing proceedings or Samenow's that you're talking about here? Do you think a program should be part of a sentence or part of parole conditions after release? Or do you mean a convicted individual should "finish the program" by finishing his sentence in the community?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Is it your view/example of sentencing proceedings or Samenow's that you're talking about here? Do you think a program should be part of a sentence or part of parole conditions after release? Or do you mean a convicted individual should "finish the program" by finishing his sentence in the community?

My view. The actual example Samenow used was at a psychiatric institution, not a prison, but once the offenders were considered “safe” they were allowed to continue participation while living at home. He did say it doesn’t matter where the program is implemented (so it could be done in a prison) and it doesn’t even matter that the therapist is a PhD (so long as he has been trained in the procedure). He is optimistic that it could be implemented on a mass scale.

One interesting thing argued in the book is the best time to offer habilitation to a criminal is the first time he faces punishment. That is when he feels most depressed, hopeless and guilty. It’s when he could best be reached with an alternative to his lifestyle. However, it’s a brief window.

My own view, which Samenow may not agree with, is that sentencing should be independent of participation in a program like this. One interesting question I was pondering is whether public money should be used for this. I don’t know what I think about that yet.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
One interesting thing argued in the book is the best time to offer habilitation to a criminal is the first time he faces punishment. That is when he feels most depressed, hopeless and guilty. It’s when he could best be reached with an alternative to his lifestyle. However, it’s a brief window.

You'd have to start on underage/young offenders in many cases; does the book discuss how the techniques could be used for children?

My own view, which Samenow may not agree with, is that sentencing should be independent of participation in a program like this. One interesting question I was pondering is whether public money should be used for this. I don’t know what I think about that yet.

I don't follow - do you think there should there be flexibility in whether it is court ordered or at the convicted individual's discretion, or should participation (and completion) be completely one or the other?

Court ordered or not, it is my view that public monies should not be used. One has the right to counsel, for example, but not the right for that counsel to be funded by taxpayers which is what the "right to counsel" has come to mean. Partial garnishment of wages from employment can be used to pay for services received for habilitation, whether it's part of a custodial sentence or not. If the procedure truly impacts lifestyle choices, employment would be the course chosen by the convicted individual and recovery of costs would be gradual, but possible without public monies. To the degree that there is seldom a one-charge: one-custodial-sentence ratio, I think this makes sense. A convicted individual may have some charges dropped, reduced to a lesser charge, and guilty pleas to "get it over with" are common, so if program completion was dependent on conviction on a particular charge out of a set of charges or a guilty plea (examples), a criminal is likely not to obtain the benefit of the program if funded as yet another public program.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
----------

My own view, which Samenow may not agree with, is that sentencing should be independent of participation in a program like this. One interesting question I was pondering is whether public money should be used for this. I don’t know what I think about that yet.

What is the basis for requiring (forcing) participation in the program if it is not part of the sentence? Once a sentence has been carried out or completed, why would the ex-criminal go to such a program?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
What is the basis for requiring (forcing) participation in the program if it is not part of the sentence? Once a sentence has been carried out or completed, why would the ex-criminal go to such a program?

It should never be forced. If the criminal doesn't want to change, and this is just a ruse to get a lesser sentence, there's no point to it.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
What is the basis for requiring (forcing) participation in the program if it is not part of the sentence? Once a sentence has been carried out or completed, why would the ex-criminal go to such a program?

I know this question was not addressed to me, but to me the hook for the majority would indeed be the state of mind of an accused desperate to get out of pre-trial custody. In other words, the desire to participate in the program (to me) would initially be the traditional desire to get a lesser sentence or release on bail with conditions, but upon noting the conditions of entry into the program, only certain individuals will choose it over some of the concurrently running "rehabilitation" programs. So I don't see it as beneficial for the program to be offered (due to some of the reasons I mentioned briefly) only post-sentencing.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
You'd have to start on underage/young offenders in many cases; does the book discuss how the techniques could be used for children?

Not in this book, but he may address that in Before It's Too Late: Why Some Kids Get Into Trouble--and What Parents Can Do About It

Court ordered or not, it is my view that public monies should not be used. One has the right to counsel, for example, but not the right for that counsel to be funded by taxpayers which is what the "right to counsel" has come to mean.

Interesting view. How can you guarantee a fair trial without guaranteeing a defense counsel?

Partial garnishment of wages from employment can be used to pay for services received for habilitation, whether it's part of a custodial sentence or not. If the procedure truly impacts lifestyle choices, employment would be the course chosen by the convicted individual and recovery of costs would be gradual, but possible without public monies.

Yes, that's a good point. I have no idea how much these programs cost though.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I know this question was not addressed to me, but to me the hook for the majority would indeed be the state of mind of an accused desperate to get out of pre-trial custody. In other words, the desire to participate in the program (to me) would initially be the traditional desire to get a lesser sentence or release on bail with conditions, but upon noting the conditions of entry into the program, only certain individuals will choose it over some of the concurrently running "rehabilitation" programs. So I don't see it as beneficial for the program to be offered (due to some of the reasons I mentioned briefly) only post-sentencing.

I think its success does in part depend on courts abandoning old rehabilitative programs. That's why Samenow has taken up the task of showing people that they're ineffective and why.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
You'd have to start on underage/young offenders in many cases; does the book discuss how the techniques could be used for children?

Not in this book, but he may address that in Before It's Too Late: Why Some Kids Get Into Trouble--and What Parents Can Do About It

Thanks, I'll pick up both books from a library.

Court ordered or not, it is my view that public monies should not be used. One has the right to counsel, for example, but not the right for that counsel to be funded by taxpayers which is what the "right to counsel" has come to mean.

Interesting view. How can you guarantee a fair trial without guaranteeing a defense counsel?

Firstly and generally, actively participate in the election of all levels of government, and commit to preventing further erosion of rights by way of nonsensical laws (choose according to your personal values and your context) that can bring a rational person to court, and refrain from committing criminal offenses of reasonable laws. It's a citizen's business to know how and what laws apply to him, and what are his rights and responsibilities - an adult should be able to discern if "fair" and lawful police investigative procedure has taken place.

Career criminals show the ability to plan their activities in great detail and intelligently. They have contingency plans for incarceration, including appointment of interim leaders, estate and child support fund disbursers, etc. To give a whole new and hyperbolic spin on the words 'organized crime', these same excellent planners can start an unapproved hedge fund or futures index based on the likelihood of their friends or cellmates reoffending, using information that is on the public record. For the sake of profit, one could commit a particular offense at a particular date and time to the point where one could financially insure for one's legal representation in the event charges are laid by manipulating the hedge fund. The occasional criminal can put part of his income on all enjoyable nefarious activities and the rest on a futures option. In other words, one can guarantee one's own defense counsel if one has the intent to commit crimes. So when it comes to criminal activities committed of a sane individual, if one can't afford a lawyer, don't invest your time in actions that may require a legal defense.

The public defender system does not guarantee a fair trial due to the presence of a defense attorney. Defense attorneys and accused persons alike are aware one can contact a defense attorney for free legal advice, and many avail themselves of that opportunity to gain a client and/or to obtain advice, regardless of one's income level.

Partial garnishment of wages from employment can be used to pay for services received for habilitation, whether it's part of a custodial sentence or not. If the procedure truly impacts lifestyle choices, employment would be the course chosen by the convicted individual and recovery of costs would be gradual, but possible without public monies.

Yes, that's a good point. I have no idea how much these programs cost though.

I do not know how much a clinical psych makes exactly, but suppose one has little experience in that field, under 5 years, with an estimated yearly income range of $65,000 to $70,000. If a program consists of 5 hours of initial intake, plus 2 hours per session x 20 sessions, at $35/hour for the clinical psychologist plus administrative fees, I guess the person benefiting from the program would still owe less than $1800 for a lifelong benefit. Suppose the person is charged a really low monthly interest rate on balance owing of, say, 10% as an incentive to pay off the debt as quickly as possible and for the clinical psychologist's time that could have been spent on a 'regular' practice, that's a reachable debt elimination target even for the destitute and homeless - if the program has accomplised its goals of habilitation.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
A queation: Does the accused have a right to counsel, or a right to seek counsel?

Right to counsel. I found a useful history of this here.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
A queation: Does the accused have a right to counsel, or a right to seek counsel?

Right to counsel. I found a useful history of this here.

To be clear, Gideon v. Wainwright and related decisions do not reflect the Sixth Amendment to the Bill of Rights.

Amendment VI

In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the state and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the assistance of counsel for his defense.

Taken together with the Fourteenth, one has the right to delay one's own trial, voir dire, remain in custody, or whatever, until we raise funds to obtain the assistance of counsel, if we so choose, but these Amendments have come to mean that we are "deprived" of the right to counsel if the state does not furnish us with public defenders to make up for an adult being impecunious.

Amendment XIV (Section 1)

All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside. No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
One has the right to counsel, for example, but not the right for that counsel to be funded by taxpayers which is what the "right to counsel" has come to mean.

I have started a discussion of this on the Law forum here.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Inside tht Criminal Mind is the only really good book in the genre of psychology, that I have ever read (but I have not read many). Can anyone here recommend any other really good books on the subject of psychology?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites