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Inside the Criminal Mind: Revised and Updated Edition (Anglais) Broché – 4 novembre 2014


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The Basic Myths About Criminals


IN NEARLY A HALF-CENTURY, little has changed in terms of deeply ingrained beliefs about the causes of crime. In the classic, still often performed, 1957 musical West Side Story, Stephen Sondheim parodied what then was the current thinking about juvenile delinquency in the song "Gee, Officer Krupke." Delinquents were punks because their fathers were drunks. They were misunderstood rather than no good. They were suffering from a "social disease," and society "had played [them] a terrible trick." They needed an analyst, not a judge, because it was "just [their] neurosis" acting up. In short, their criminal behavior was regarded as symptomatic of a deep-seated psychological or sociological problem. In this chapter I shall briefly discuss this proposition. In subsequent chapters I shall examine them in greater detail and show that the prevalent thinking about crime has been and still is loaded with fundamental misconceptions resulting in devastating consequences for society.

A man abducts, rapes, and murders a little girl. We, the public, may be so revolted by the gruesomeness of the crime that we conclude only a sick person could be capable of such an act. But our personal gut reaction shows no insight into, or understanding of, what really went on in this individual's mind as he planned and executed the crime. True, what the perpetrator inflicted upon this child is not "normal" behavior. But what does "sick" really mean? A detailed and lengthy examination of the mind of a criminal will reveal that, no matter how bizarre or repugnant the crime, he is rational, calculating, and deliberate in his actions--not mentally ill.

Criminals know right from wrong. In fact, some know the laws better than their lawyers do. But they believe that whatever they want to do at any given time is right for them. Their crimes require logic and self-control.

Some crimes happen so fast and with such frequency that they appear to be compulsive. A person may steal so often that others become convinced that he is the victim of an irresistible impulse and therefore a "kleptomaniac." But a thorough mental examination would show that he is simply a habitual thief, skilled at what he does. He can case out a situation with a glance, then quickly make off with whatever he wants. A habit is not a compulsion. On any occasion, the thief can refrain from stealing if he is in imminent danger of getting caught. And if he decides to give up stealing for a while and lie low, he will succeed in doing so.

The sudden and violent crime of passion has been considered a case of temporary insanity because the perpetrator acts totally out of character. But again, appearance belies reality.

A man murders his wife in the heat of an argument. He has not murdered anyone before, and statistical trends would project that he will not murder again. It is true that the date, time, and place of the homicide were not planned. But an examination of this man would show that on several occasions he had shoved her and often wished her dead. In addition, he is a person who frequently has fantasies of evening the score violently whenever he believes that anyone has crossed him. He did not act totally out of character when he murdered his wife. He was not seized by an alien, uncontrollable impulse. In his thinking, there was precedent for such a crime. An individual with even worse problems, but with a different personality makeup, would have resolved them differently. For example, one man whose family I evaluated during a child custody dispute discovered that his wife was spending hours on the Internet involved with a man whom she met and had sex with, then announced her plan to spend the rest of her life with him. Although her husband was emotionally devastated and irate, he neither threatened nor attacked her. He proceeded through the legal system toward divorce and obtaining custody of his daughter.

If criminals are not mentally ill, aren't they nevertheless victims of poverty, divorce, racism, and a society that denies them opportunities? Since the late nineteenth century, there has been a prevalent opinion that society is more to blame for crime than the criminal. But criminality is not limited to any particular societal group, as the 3.2 million arrests during 1999 demonstrate.

Sociologists assert that the inner-city youngster responds with rage to a society that has excluded him from the mainstream and put the American dream beyond his reach. Some even contend that crime is a normal and adaptive response to growing up in the soul-searing conditions of places like Watts and the South Bronx. They observe that correctional institutions contain a disproportionately large number of inmates who are poor and from minority groups. These inmates are seen as casualties of a society that has robbed them of hope and virtually forced them into crime just so they can survive.

Suburban delinquents are also regarded as victims--of intense pressures to compete, of materialism, of parents who neglect them or push them to grow up too fast, or are overly protective. These adolescents are perceived as rebelling not only against their parents but against middle-class values, seeking meaning instead through kicks and thrills.

If it isn't grinding poverty that causes crime, then its opposite--overindulgence--is cited as the cause. As developing nations become increasingly industrialized and their citizens become prosperous, crimes that were rare burst into headlines. In a Bangkok Post article about two tragic shooting sprees, the writer conjectured that "Western-style teenage crime" was emerging in Thailand because Thai children were so indulged that they would "snap" when confronted by life's hardships. Whether a child is deprived or pampered tells us nothing about how he will turn out. Most children who grow up in poverty and most indulged children become independent, resourceful, and responsible.

What of the observation that a disproportionate number of people incarcerated for crimes are both poor and from minority groups? Does this make a commentary on those groups? Or does it prove that the criminal justice system is racist? To whatever extent inequities exist, they need to be corrected. During the past thirty-three years I have focused on individuals, not groups. While interviewing and evaluating members of various ethnic and racial groups, I have found that in nearly every case members of the offender's own family have been law-abiding. The critical factor in becoming a criminal justice statistic is not race or ethnicity; it is the character of the individual and the choices he makes. It is unwarranted and racist to assume that because a person is poor and black (or brown, red, or yellow) he is inadequate to cope responsibly with his environment and therefore can hardly help but become a criminal.

Peer pressure is seen as a critical factor in the lives of youngsters from all social classes who turn to crime. Experts point out that some subcultures reward being daring and tough, and not living by a work ethic. Kids learn about crime from one another; they are schooled in the streets and go along with the crowd in order to acquire self-esteem and a sense of belonging. The belief that crime is contagious like a disease is more than a century old.

Every social institution has been blamed for contributing to crime. Schools have been singled out as forcing into crime youngsters who don't fit the academic mold. Churches have been accused of not providing leadership to wayward youth and to the community at large. Newspapers, television, and the movies have been charged with glamorizing crime. American business and advertising have been accused of contributing to distorted values and therefore to crime.

Economic hard times have been associated with an increase in crime. But then so have good times. Financial setbacks are said to push despondent people over the edge. But then, when times are booming, it has been thought that the gap between the "haves" and "have nots" widens and the latter, out of resentment, turn to crime. Economic pressures are also seen as contributing to crime by forcing mothers to go to work, further weakening the family. Their children have less supervision and guidance than before, and are even more vulnerable to peer pressure.

Economic adversity affects us all. We may be pushed to work longer hours or to take a second job. Women who prefer to be at home may have little choice but to go to work. Families may have to make do with less and watch goals slip further out of reach, and people on fixed incomes bear a special burden. The responsible person responds to economic pressures by sacrifice and hard work. Even for him, temptation may be stronger to step outside the law as the economic squeeze grows tighter. Ultimately, however, it comes down to how each person chooses to deal with the circumstances he faces.

Sociological explanations for crime, plausible as they may seem, are simplistic. If they were correct, we'd have far more criminals than we do. Criminals come from all kinds of families and neighborhoods. Most poor people are law-abiding, and most kids from divorced parents are not delinquents. Children may bear the scars of neglect and deprivation for life, but most do not become criminals. The environment does have some effect. For instance, it can provide greater or fewer opportunities for crime to occur--greater or lesser deterrence. But people perceive and react to similar conditions of life very differently. A family may reside in a neighborhood where gangs roam the streets and where drugs are as easy to come by as cigarettes. The father may have deserted and the mother may collect welfare. Yet not all the children in that family turn to crime. In suburbia, a family may be close emotionally and well off financially, but that is not enough to keep one of the youngsters from using drugs, stealing, and destroying property. In an area where firearms and drugs are readily available, most residents choose to use neither. The criminal seizes upon opportunities that others shun. More critical than the environment itself is how the individual chooses to respond to whatever the circumstances are.

We have seen other instances of when a major change in the environment suppresses crime or permits it to flourish even throughout an entire country. When totalitarian governments with their despots fall from power and are replaced by democratic regimes, the citizenry has more freedom. The responsible person has opportunity to develop his talents and pursue interests that he couldn't before. The person who is criminally inclined also has greater freedom and will pursue whatever interests him. This in part explains the surge in crime reported in countries that previously had oppressive governments.

Criminals claim that they were rejected by parents, neighbors, schools, and employers, but rarely does a criminal say why he was rejected. Even as a young child, he was sneaky and defiant, and the older he grew, the more he lied to his parents, stole and destroyed their property, and threatened them. He made life at home unbearable as he turned even innocuous requests into a battleground. He conned his parents to get whatever he wanted, or else he wore them down through endless argument. It was the criminal who rejected his parents rather than vice versa.

Not only did he reject his family, but he rejected the kids in the neighborhood who acted responsibly. He considered them uninteresting, their lives boring. He gravitated to more-adventurous youngsters, many of whom were older than he. Crime is not contagious like chicken pox. Even in crime-infested neighborhoods, there are youngsters who want no part of the action. Sure, there is the desire to belong to the crowd, but the question is which crowd. Criminals are not forced into crime by other people. They choose the companions they like and admire.

The school does not reject the antisocial youngster until he is impossible to deal with. Many criminals have no use for school whatsoever. Some remain in school, then use their education to gain entree into circles where they find new victims. More commonly, delinquent youngsters use the classroom as an arena for criminal activity by fighting, lying, stealing, and engaging in power plays against teachers and other pupils. Basically, for them, school is boring, its requirements stupid, the subjects meaningless. Just as the criminal rejects his parents, he does the same to his teachers. It is neither incompetent teachers nor an irrelevant curriculum that drives him out. In fact, the school may offer him an individually tailored program, but no matter what he is offered, it does not suit him. Finally, he is expelled for disruptive behavior or grows so bored that he quits.

The notion that people become criminals because they are shut out of the job market is an absurdity. In the first place, most unemployed people are not criminals. More to the point, perhaps, is that many criminals do not want to work. They may complain that without skills they can't find employment. (Of course, it was their choice not to remain in school to acquire those skills.) But, as many a probation officer will observe, usually jobs of some sort are available, but criminals find them too menial and beneath them.

Some criminals are highly educated and successful at their work. Their very success may serve as a cover for crime. If a person has a solid work record, he is generally regarded as responsible and stable. But even legitimately acquired money, recognition, and power are not sufficient incentives for a criminal to live within the law. The point is that what a person's environment offers or lacks is not decisive in his becoming a criminal.

The public often criticizes the media for making crime enticing by glorifying both specific crimes and criminals. There has long been intense concern about the high incidence of violence in television programs that reach children. In the aftermath of school shootings during the 1990s, television again came under scrutiny for its effect on children. One highly publicized study released in 2000 claimed to support the contention that television causes aggression.But millions of people who frequently watch violence on television dramas, films, documentaries, and newscasts do not enact what they see.

A person already thinking about committing crimes may pick up ideas from the media, or become more confident about the feasibility of a particular crime. Fascinated and excited by the prospect of imitating and getting away with what he has watched on television or in a movie, he perpetrates what has come to be called a "copycat crime." Critical, though, is not what plays on the screen but what lies in the mind of the viewer. Television, movies, video games, magazines, or books will not turn a responsible person into a criminal. To believe otherwise is again to subscribe to the erroneous premise that external events easily shape human character.

Présentation de l'éditeur

Long-held myths defining the sources of and cures for crime are shattered in this ground-breaking book--and a chilling profile of today's criminal emerges.


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96 internautes sur 103 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
A very accurate description of the criminal mind 17 janvier 1999
Par Pat Brown - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Relié
Dr. Samenow clearly describes HOW a criminal thinks and behaves. This uncompromising look at antisocial behavior is very valuable to the psychiatrist, social worker and anyone involved in the criminal justice system. Many of those involved in deciding the fate of offenders lack the ability to understand that criminals, especially psychopthic ones, are not even playing on the same gameboard as the rest of society. Samenow's experience clearly shows the care one must take in analyzing the ability of offenders to function noncriminally in the world outside of an institutional setting. Samenow's theory on how the offender develops his peculiar viewpoint of the world is, however, seriously deficient. He simply accuses the criminal of having developed his narcissistic personality from the moment of birth unaided in any manner by family or society. On the other hand, his treatment of the offender relies strictly on behavior modification and his prevention of the development of criminal minds also stresses good parenting skills and a more responsive society. He contradicts himself in his confusion of nuture versus nature versus individual responsibility. None of us has the exact answer in this matter and Samenow would be better off not trying to make any conclusions in an area in which he lacks a comfortable argument. Regardless of this downside to the book, the work is an extremely good resource for understanding the working of the psychopathic mind. Pat Brown, Director/Investigative Criminal Profiler, The Sexual Homicide Exchange of Washington DC and Vicinity
66 internautes sur 72 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Myths are complex, truths are simple 21 août 2003
Par Scott W. Pecora - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Relié
As a Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner with over 10 years experience, the last four in corrections I found Samenow's text to be mostly accurate and reinforced my own observations. What I find amazing reading other reviews is how much "Reagan" or the "evil" right is blamed for our criminal justice system. In fact as Samenow explores, everyone and everything is held responsible for crime. The economy, environment, parenting, abuse history, poverty, ethnic background, opportunity, or lack there of! Everything and everyone but the Criminal!
There are several things I have learned about criminals, one is that regardless what most person's would like to believe the average criminal weighs his options. Risk verses Gain. If the potential gain out weighs the risk, they'll do it. This is where rehabilitation plays havoc! Criminals do not SEE REHABILITATION as something that can help them. They SEE it as a reduction in risk. "If I'm caught, I'll beg for drug treatment, or mental health court, or probation, or early release. The criminal see's the concept of rehabilitation as an "out". I have personally spoke with hundreds of I/M's who tell me (often with sincerety) they "need" help with their "drug addiction", or if they just had the right opportunity.
Two TRUTHS: Not all Drug users are criminals, but almost ALL Criminals are drug users! A big misconception is if we treat the drug user, we'll "cure" the criminal, and nothing could be farther from the truth. Criminals seek out drugs for an altered experience, profitability, and a general apathy regarding life.
Samenow is correct, "a criminal will NOT change, until there is NO OTHER OPTION left him/her. "Programs, and rehabilitation simply delay this! If you want to reduce crime, and change criminal behavior, you must make the alternative so overwhelming painful and unacceptable they have no choice. Such as manditory sentences, elimination of plea bargining, and parole boards. Simplfy our laws. Create a criminal code that a 5th grader can comprehend and live by and you will reduce crime.
Samenows views are often not popular because they essentially says, "These people can't really be helped!" An he's correct, at least for a long time in many instances. Because until the criminal has reached the point in his/her life where it's either change or die (die from lack of love, peace, fulfillment, etc) they will not change.
22 internautes sur 24 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
A must read for anyone in the criminal justice field. 9 septembre 1999
Par Un client - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Relié
I first read this book years ago, when it first was published. After working in the field of juvenile justice for many years, I am now in the position to teach new employees in the field how to understand the incarcerated youth we work with. Although not all the youth we work with are criminals (some are really victims of social circumstances), this book was extremely helpful in helping me to understand how some of the youth we work with think, and how and why they truly are different from "ordinary" people. In every chapter I read I recognized at least one of the young people I had worked with over the years. This book gives valuable insight into the criminal mind.
69 internautes sur 84 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Extremely accessible, well-written, no-nonsense account 27 juillet 2001
Par Amazon Customer - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Relié
Dr. Stanton Samenow doesn't discuss WHY criminals are what they are because, he admits, we don't know and because, more importantly, who cares? WHY isn't the issue, nor was it his objective in writing. What's important is that we recognize the criminal mind & what might be done to fix it, both of which he addresses excellently. (It similarly is of little importance WHY a person has cancer or why they are an addict--what's pressing to them is being cured or having their addiction arrested). ... I spent 17 months visiting and corresponding with a young convicted murderer for a non-fiction book. I hadn't read Samenow's book beforehand, so I had no preconceptions from his work. Reading it afterwards, I find his description of the criminal stunningly accurate, down to fine details. ... Samenow's book isn't bogged down with a lot of attribution & statistics because he's speaking with the authority of being partner with Dr. Samuel Yochelson, the three volumes they wrote together, the work at St. Elizabeths (for more in depth, read their work, "The Criminal Personality.") ... Meanwhile, this book is a very accessible, understandable, accurate, well-written description designed for a much wider audience that really cuts away all the myths & challenges the reader to be compassionate not by excusing the criminal but by asking him to accept responsibility, the first step to a cure. ... If Samenow's solution sounds a lot like a 12 Step program without overt spirituality, that's not a criticism--12 Step programs have proven to be the most effective way to approach alcoholism and other addictions. No approach to alcoholism has ever been more successful than Alcoholics Anonymous, which is now more than 60 years old. All approaches have very high failure rates, just as attempts to cure cancers have high failure rates (& crime and addiction are as serious to the individual & to society as cancer). Comparing Samenow's ideas to AA's 12 Steps is, thus, hardly a criticism. ... Samenow's basic message is 1. the criminal thinks differently from the responsible person, 2. the criminal chooses crime, 3. the criminal's only possible outcomes are to continue their behavior, to commit suicide or to change, 4. many of the excuses we make for criminals are wrong and also not truly empathetic or compassionate and even sometimes covertly racist, 5. what criminals say after the fact is unimportant, it's their antecedent patterns of thought and action that matter, 6. only a change in thought patterns can help a criminal. ... He makes the excellent point that rehabilitation is sort of an odd concept since the word implies a return to a previous state of being, yet most lifelong criminals have never known anything other than what they are so how could they be rehabilitated? This is similar to the idea of recovery for the addict--recovery to what? I was always an addict: I'm not REcovering (God forbid!), I'm changing my entire approach to life, which is also the only way out for the criminal. ... This is an outstanding book whose wide audience should include criminal justice professionals, true crime enthusiasts, members of the media, corrections officials, criminals & their loved ones & anyone concerned with crime.
14 internautes sur 15 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
A lump of Immalleable Clay 15 mai 2007
Par Soapsuds - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Relié Achat vérifié
Was the despicable criminal and murder spree on April 16, 2007 at Virginia Tech University by Seung-Hui-Cho because of his gender, race, parental upbringing, psychotic inclinations, or simply by the acts against him by those around him?

None of the above, inclusive and or exclusive of either one of the purported reasons, if you read the theories and analytical presentations author Stanton E. Samenow, Ph.D., enumerates in his book titled "Inside the Criminal Mind."

According to the author, it is a misconception the person inclined to be a criminal is because of his or her parental upbringing, poverty, influential friends, mother, father, family and neighborhood. In his book, "Inside the Criminal Mind," the author states, "Criminals cause crime - not bad neighborhoods, inadequate parents, television, schools, or unemployment. Crime resides in the minds of human beings and is not caused by social conditions."

The author also discounts the theory of a psychotic mind, "...psychological theory, in its current state, is more misleading than illuminating in explaining why people become criminals. Far from being a formless lump of clay, the criminal shapes others more than they do him."

"...criminals come from a wide variety of backgrounds - from the inner city, suburbia, rural areas and small towns and from many religious, racial or ethnic groups. They may grow up in closely knit families, broken homes, or orphanages. They may be grade school dropouts or college graduates, unemployed drifters or corporate executives. In most cases, they have brothers, sisters, and next-door neighbors who grew up under similar circumstances but did not become criminals."

Thus the gestalt of "Inside the Criminal Mind," sets out to show criminals know right from wrong and the criminal is not the product of external sources. Criminal behavior is the product of the individuals' way of thinking.

The author Samenow says, "I shall expose the myths about why criminals commit crimes. I shall draw a picture for you of the personality of the criminal just as the police artist draws a picture of his face from a description. I shall describe how criminals think, how they defend their crimes to others, and how they exploit programs that are developed to help them. I shall discuss what these people are like as children for, with systematic study; it is possible to identify at least some children who are predisposed to criminality."

Looking back and thinking of the video Seung-Hui Cho made which was televised to the world, he did exactly what author Samenow illustrates in his book which was publish way before Seung-Hui Cho came into being. The criminal never takes responsibility for his acts and blames everyone and everything for his shortcomings and worse yet, for his criminal mind. Those of us who saw the video and were not aware how the criminal and his mind thinks, felt a sense of guilt and culpability for the despicable crimes he committed. However, we did not mold him to be or do what he did, but he molded us to think we were the ones responsible for his morally reprehensible and wretched act.

I strongly recommend "Inside the Criminal Mind." Everyone, parents, teachers, administrators, people at large should read it to better understand the mind of a criminal.

Reference the coming of age in the following novel:

The Kids on the Block
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