“Inside The Criminal Mind” was written by Dr. Stanley Samenow a criminal psychologist. This book is a controversial read and many people react strongly to Samenow’s conclusions. He is simultaneously accused of being “too hard” on criminals by some and “too soft” on criminals by others. He is “too hard” on criminals because he expects them to take full accountability for themselves and not blame their disadvantaged childhoods, abuse by parents, poverty, etc. for their problems. But he is also accused of being “too soft” because his approach is treatment focused. I personally have found Dr. Samenow’s work fascinating and insightful and would encourage anyone that works among the incarcerated to read it!
The book relies on case studies, which fill the first 9 of its 14 chapters. Those chapters tear down existing theories by using individual examples. Then in Chapter 10 Dr. Samenow argues that the criminal knows right from wrong and when it suits him, he is law-abiding and even takes pride in being meticulous about it. If a criminal regards something as wrong for him personally, he will not do it. And if a criminal makes an error in judgment and is caught, he will say what he did wrong, but only because he was caught. Samenow goes on to disagree with other psychologists by this unusual claim, “Criminals do experience guilt and remorse. They have a conscience but it is not fully operational. When they commit a crime, they can shut off considerations of conscience as quickly and totally as they can shut off an electric light. Just the fact that the criminal can feel guilt, no matter how ineffective it is as a deterrent, helps him to maintain the belief that he is decent.” Chapters 11 through 14 then address what is needed in order for criminals to change. Samenow argues that crime is not reduced by social programs alone but also by consistent confrontation and education, teaching them habilitative procedures to control their anger and thoughts, to acquire new goals, and to perform a daily moral inventory. He suggests that criminals experience brief periods of dissatisfaction with their lives during which they sincerely want to change and those in corrections must learn how to take advantage of these periods by helping the criminal to see himself as the rotten person he is and then teaching him new ways of thinking.
This book debunks long-held myths regarding sources and cures for crime, redefines what motivates criminals and explains what must be done to deal with them effectively. Though it is controversial and I don’t necessarily agree with all of Dr. Samenow’s claims, I believe that we can all learn from this book and to be more effective in our approach to prison ministry. You can purchase this book by clicking on the books cover in this post!