I was talking to someone about the psychology of criminal tendencies. Because I taught in a prison and worked among adult males who had committed all sorts of crimes from forging passports to attempted murder and rape, I'd had the opportunity to talk to and learn from people who were in the very situation the author of the opening post described.
At the beginning, I was convinced, after hearing the majority of their stories, that there was a situational component (something 2 pack alluded to) in their upbringing - maybe a lack of educational or creative opportunities- as well as an innate tendency to suffer from impulsivity which often resulted in rash and reckless behavior- almost as if the concept of actions leading to consequences had not been learned- or maybe could simply not be adhered to.
And during the time I taught at the prison, I was impressed by the array of opportunities available to these men in terms of educational, creative and physical activities. There was a prison choir, a prison band, art and pottery classes where really amazing talent was on display...cooking classes, etc., etc.
And most of the guys participated. There were six units- each offering or enforcing varying degrees of security. Only one was set aside for those who were still known drug users - although I did learn as I taught there that drug use was still pretty rampant throughout the prison.
What I viewed and what I hadn't thought of before was that often - no matter how intent the person was on staying clean, or refusing to engage again in the behavior that had landed him in prison- there almost inevitably arose an instance in which the person reoffended (even in such a censuring and/or supportive (however you choose to label it) environment).
And so, I began to wonder if the tendency to offend criminally might be a sort of compulsion- like washing your hands too often. I thought of this because once I was talking to one of the men and he asked me not to leave my bag in the room with him. I never had my wallet in it - we locked any of our valuable or identifying material in our cars - we were cautioned not even to bring them into the prison - but apparently he didn't know this. And he told me, 'Don't leave your bag in the room with me - I don't want to steal from you.'
It was then that I realized that some of these behaviors might be as addicting and engaged in as compulsively but also reluctantly as drug abuse or drinking or any other compulsion.
But the question that most interested me was this: Do most of the people who engage in these activities feel bad about engaging in them and truly wish to stop? I'd like to believe this is the case - that the guy who wrote about his opportunities at this prison to change his life- is in the majority.
Unfortunately, I think there are some who view their ability to get over on the system or other individuals as thrilling and it is this thrill, as much as constantly reliving the experience of the actual illegal activity they engage in, that they're compelled to constantly chase.
What was most interesting to me was the fact that these men all recognized each other and were constantly warning me each about the other. They were more judgmental of their fellow prisoners than any other the teachers I worked with were. And I worked with some pretty middle class teachers - all of whom had one thing in common- an open mind. We hadn't been immersed in what seemed to be pretty common environmental pathologies as they had. I really had no opinion about any of it before I worked there - because I didn't know it - but they all knew each other's stories intimately...they'd lived it. So they knew what each other were capable of.
No one even tried to chew me up and spit me out though - if anything they were protective and it was the most orderly and polite teaching environment I'd ever taught in. I'd take it before public school in a second.