Why We Need To Take A Look At The Way We Treat Prisoners And Do It Differently

“Violent offenders, more often than not, are victims long before they commit their first crime: A former inmate who spent two years in a Boston prison for robbery was given away by his mother, a heroin addict, by the time he was 5 — the same year her boyfriends began beating him up; when he was 8, he watched another kid get shot in the head in his housing project.

Another man, in and out of prison from age 18 to 33 for assaults and drug crimes, grew up getting routinely beaten by his mother and frequently saw neighbors get stabbed and shot in the New York community of his childhood.” (source)

If you had been around violence, crime and poverty all your life, and this was all you had known, would it be any surprise that you too, may also end up committing crimes? Would you think it might be difficult to grow up as a ‘good person’ if all you had seen was the opposite of love?  Would you think that being forced into another repressive life, which was even worse than what you had experienced previously, would be good for you and would somehow turn you into a better person by the time your sentence ended?

No – of course, it wouldn’t.

This is the reality of many prisoners face, that their time spent locked away for their crimes, actually makes them worse.  What does this do to society as a whole?  Do we ever really think about how this impacts all of us?

With the numbers of those incarcerated, increasing all the time, it is not hard to fathom the implications this has on all of us for the future.

‘Corrections’ Is A Term That Is Not The Reality

Whilst many prisons are called ‘correctional centers’ shouldn’t they be a place of rehabilitation so that the prisoners become better people? So that they don’t commit these crimes again, and instead start to contribute positively to society? The reality of what goes on inside prisons is often the exact opposite.  For those that have spent time in jail, there is a strong chance they will end up re-offending.  Texas for example, incarcerates more people per capita than any other country in the world, and suffers from a staggering 60% recidivism (re-offending) rate.

Shouldn’t we take look at why this is so, and try and stop it from happening?

Hurt People, Hurt People

I know, you may be thinking that if a person has committed serious offenses, they deserve to be locked away, to do ‘time’ to pay for their sins? Yes – that is true.  However, what we don’t often realize is that the way prisoners are treated in the majority of prisons often makes them worse, and they become even more broken, as prison life encourages more violence and increases mental instability.

If someone is never shown any kindness and compassion, will they ever become an example of this themselves?

The causes of crime are complex. Poverty, parental neglect, low self-esteem, alcohol and drug abuse can be connected to why people break the law. Some are at greater risk of becoming offenders because of the circumstances into which they are born. (source)

For the innocent victims of a false sentence – which you will always find in any jail –  can you imagine what these harsh and cruel environments would do to their own spirit?

With over 2 million people incarcerated just in the USA alone, there are over 11 million prisoners worldwide (source).  These are astronomical numbers and it is clear that there is indeed, a very big – and growing – problem, particularly in America.

This subject has so many layers that it is impossible to give them all the focus they need, and I do understand the reaction many people have to this subject; those that do the crime should pay the time. However, as a concerned citizen who believes that we are all actually spiritually connected to each other, I think it’s important to highlight these issues.

The number of women in prison has been increasing at twice the rate of growth for men since 1980. Women in prison often have significant histories of physical and sexual abuse, high rates of HIV, and substance abuse problems. Women’s imprisonment in femaleled households leads to children who suffer from their mother’s absence and breaks in family ties. (source)

To become more aware of this problem, Netflix and Youtube have many eye-opening documentaries that highlight issues that I want to bring attention to, which are all mentioned below.

Another huge layer to all of this is, how many innocent people are actually in jails? Is the system breaking good, innocent people that were just in the wrong place at the wrong time and are in fact, terribly unfortunate victims of a failing ‘justice’ system?

Prisons Should Not Be ‘For Profit’

USA prisons (and others around the world) are often run ‘for profit’, so the increasing numbers and overcrowded jails, may in fact, actually be all by design to line the pockets of powerful people and companies.

Because of this reach, the market for privatized services dwarfs that of privatized facilities. The private-prison industry’s annual revenues total $4 billion. By comparison, the correctional food-service industry alone provides the equivalent of $4 billion worth of food each year, according to Technomic, a food industry research and consulting firm. Corrections departments spend at least $12.3 billion on health care, about half of which is provided by private companies. Telephone companies, which can charge up to $25 for a 15-minute call, rake in $1.3 billion annually. The range of for-profit services is extensive, from transport vans to halfway houses, from video visitations to e-mail, from ankle monitors to care packages. To many companies, the roughly $80 billion that the United States spends on corrections each year is not a national embarrassment but a gold mine.

Today, a handful of privately held companies dominate the correctional-services market, many with troubling records of price gouging some of the poorest families and violating the human rights of prisoners. But the problem doesn’t end there. These companies are often controlled by private-equity firms, which through financial alchemy transform the prison-industrial complex into lavish returns for pensions, endowments, and charitable foundations. And, as successive administrations have ramped up immigration enforcement, they’ve also squeezed money out of immigrant detention. (source)

It begs the question, Is the prison system actually a legal human trafficking industry? Is it in their interests to keep them at overcapacity?

Coloured People Incarcerated In Higher Numbers

There is also a very high disproportionate amount of people of color compared to white in USA jails, which is of huge concern by itself.

The reality of what is going on inside the prison system makes for indeed, truly brutal viewing, but it is very important for us all, to beware of the reality. It is another part of our society that desperately requires great change because it does truly impact us all.

The USA, and other countries lock up many people for what are seemingly minor crimes. Some, as you will learn below, are almost unbelievable.

What impact does this have on the families who are left behind: a young child’s father or mother taken away, leaving them for years, without that important role model in their lives.  What psychological damage does this do to them, what impact does this have on society,  and how will it impact their own futures?  Will they too, resort to crime, or drugs and alcohol one day?

On a positive note, I also show you what good is being done in some prisons around the world that are actually able to rehabilitate people in a way that is truly transformative. This is what we need to do for broken and hurt people, we need to help give them a purpose for taking control of their lives and making amends of the mistakes they once made.  Only then, will this help society.

13th

This documentary, available on Netflix is the best place to start if you are interested in looking at how the justice system became such a mess, you will see why it became an industry for profit, and why there are far more colored people incarcerated.

You will discover the very shocking untold history lesson about slavery and how it never really left the USA, coloured people were instead moved into the prison system for very petty crimes at an ever-increasing rate.

13th, a film by American Ava DuVernay, explores the intersection of race, justice, and mass incarceration in the United States. It was named 13th after the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, adopted in 1865, which abolished slavery throughout the United States except as a punishment for conviction of a crime. 

Prisons that are run for-profit, mean that some people may go to jail for a long time, despite their offense being quite minor.  This also means that there are now many young people in adult jails.

In the USA it seems that it’s very easy to be put in detention centers for seemingly minor crimes.  This robbing of their childhoods can ruin their entire lives which we will cover below when we discuss the documentary Kids For Cash.

DuVernay shows that slavery has been increasingly perpetuated since the end of the American Civil War through criminalizing behavior and enabling police to arrest poor men and force them to work for the state under what is known as ‘convict leasing’  This factual documentary shows eye-opening statistics about the huge increase in prison numbers that are of colored people.

Ava examines the prison-industrial complex and the emerging detention-industrial complex, discussing how much money is actually being made by corporations from such incarcerations.

Kids For Cash

This is a great one to watch after viewing 13th, because it then brings attention to the concern regarding young children being put in detention centers, also for very petty crimes. These centers, are again, mostly run for profit.

The kids for cash scandal centered on two judges at the Luzerne County Court of Common Pleas in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. In 2008, two judges, Michael Conahan and Mark Ciavarella were accused of accepting money in return for imposing harsh sentences on juveniles simply to increase occupancy at for-profit detention centers.

This documentary shows the damage this can do to the individual, quite often exposing a typical ‘naughty’ pre-teen to horrific and frightening treatment which goes on in ‘kid’ jails, that they really aren’t mentally able to cope with.

This, of course, can impact them for life, because of the trauma (imagine being 12 and not able to see your parents for months at a time, whilst being involved in, or witness to many extremely violent acts) they may themselves end up turning to violence in there just to survive, which then means they likely will end up staying imprisoned much longer.

Judge Mark Ciavarella was found to have forced thousands of children to have ‘extended stays’ in youth centers for offenses as trivial as mocking a school staff member on Myspace or trespassing in a vacant building.  How utterly ridiculous, and a crime in itself, that so many kids have been put away for these kinds of silly things.

This incarceration of minor offenses has led to permanent emotional trauma, and some victims have ended up committing suicide or becoming drug and alcohol addicts. This is what psychological trauma does.  A life, and families ruined because of money-hungry people in positions of power.

Thankfully, Judge Ciavarella was convicted on 12 of 39 counts and sentenced to 28 years in federal prison.

Whilst it is great that he has been locked away himself, it does not mean that the youth prison system is now a good one, they are still being run for profit.

Time: The Kalief Browder Story

This documentary series found on Netflix is an absolutely harrowing and gut-wrenching story of what goes on in many prisons around the world.  It is hard not to feel your own heart break after witnessing this horrific account of what maximum security prisons did to an innocent, young and good man who had a promising future ahead of him.

In 2010, 16-year-old Kalief Browder, from The Bronx NYC, whilst walking home from a party, was accused of stealing a backpack by police, and not only was he thrown in jail without a trial, but he was sent to one of the toughest adult prisons in NYC, Rikers Island.  If convicted, Kaleif faced up to 15 years in prison – for stealing a backpack no less.

This lengthy sentence seems unbelievable, yet this is how punishment is dealt out in the USA.  They are incredibly tough on minor crimes. It seems like any of us could be easily accused of something, thrown in jail, and unless we had money to pay for bail, we also may have to wait a very long time to have our case heard.  This is very wrong, and once again, the vulnerable, and impoverished people have to pay a price whilst those with money will have a much easier time dealing with the justice system.  When we look into the ‘for profit’ prison industry, could this be why they are so tough on crimes, and quick to send people to prison?

Sadly, Kalief’s family were not able to afford his $3000 bail, so Kalief went straight to Rikers Island, a jail notorious for it’s violent criminals and for being very poorly managed.  It is widely known as ‘hell on earth’ and somewhere no teenager should be found in.

Whilst waiting to have his hearing on the alleged crime, Kalief ended up spending an astronomical 3 years in jail experiencing what can only be described as completely disturbing and ongoing violent, physical and mental abuse.

Kalief, slight in stature and still a teenager, was regularly attacked by dangerous and much older gang members, and was thrown in solitary confinement for months at a time.  He often had food withheld from him, and never had any access to mental health programs.  Kalief was also often violently attacked by cruel prison guards.

Due to this ongoing inhumane treatment, and, not surprisingly, feeling so hopeless, Kalief tried to commit suicide under the watch of prison guards – who were later found to have cruelly taunted Kalief whilst he was doing this –  they took him down from the noose just as he was about to pass out, then they proceeded to violently beat him. This was not the last time he tried to take his own life in jail, yet nobody of authority helped him with his mental health issues.

This gruesome footage of what happened to Kalief was released to the public and is also shown in the documentary, and it indeed displayed this sickening and cruel treatment by the hands of the prison guards. This is the reality of many prisons, where the guards commit despicable crimes themselves.

Those guards, to this day, have never been held accountable for their own disgusting behavior against this innocent, young man.

Kalief never had his case go to trial, the ‘witness’ disappeared to Mexico, and after an unfathomable 30 separate visits to court to see if his case would, at last, be heard by the court, Kalief eventually was released.

Whilst Kalief was now a free man after 3 years of mental and physical torture, his mind was anything but, and his story does not have a happy eneding. After his release, and when the trial against the city began to try and receive compensation for his time in jail, Kalief wrote this:

“People tell me because I have this case against the city I’m all right. But I’m not all right. I’m messed up. I know that I might see some money from this case, but that’s not going to help me mentally. I’m mentally scarred right now. That’s how I feel. Because there are certain things that changed about me and they might not go back.” He also said, “Before I went to jail, I didn’t know about a lot of stuff, and, now that I’m aware, I’m paranoid. I feel like I was robbed of my happiness.”

Kalief’s unforgettable and deeply traumatic experiences caused such everlasting damage to his health and well-being. His time in jail crushed his spirit and most tragically, he wasn’t able to cope with his haunting memories and how his mind had now become.

Akeem Browder, a prison reform campaigner, is the truly inspiring, fiercely intelligent, brave, older brother of Kalief, and has since started the Kalief Browder Foundation in honor of his brother’s life:

The KBF strategies support youth and young adults, typically in middle/ high school and college, who were negatively impacted by the incarceration system and the school to prison pipeline particularly and labeled “At Risk Youth”. We aim to enhance their social emotional learning skills through critical thinking exercises, relationship building lessons, mentoring through narrative change and skill building. The KBF has engaged the youth impacted by the incarceration system to shift into the role of leaders for systems change through its work in New York within it’s legislative body. Listening to the community and its needs allowed us to develop a curriculum that speaks directly to the necessities that our youth and young adults face day to day. The criminalization of poverty, race and trauma has held our poor communities in its grips far too long for us to not find a way out.

Akeem has since been campaigning to get Rikers Island shut down. The documentary received much press and celebrity attention after it’s release, but sadly whilst there has been a lot of ‘talk’ about Kalief’s story, to date, no one has helped much financially to get the foundation seriously off the ground.  To make real changes, to hire staff and to run a foundation properly, funds are needed.

You can help keep Kalief’s memory alive, and to support the foundation which strives to bring about much-needed change to the justice system.

PLEASE Donate here

Kalief’s story deserves to be heard, in the hope that something good can one day come out of it.

When They See Us

When They See Us is a 2019 American miniseries which was created, co-written, and directed also by 13th director Ava DuVernay for Netflix. It premiered on May 31, 2019 and is a four-part series. It is based on the highly publicized 1989 Central Park jogger case and explores the lives and families of the five male suspects who were prosecuted on charges related to the brutal rape and assault of a woman in Central Park, New York City.

The series explores the shocking way that 5 innocent young males who were targeted for committing this crime against a young white woman in Central Park, just because they were black, and were in the park that night.  The film shows they were coerced into a false confession and there was actually never any solid evidence that they did it, yet the prosecution was still able to pin the crimes on all 5 boys.

After spending years in jail, they later ended up being exonerated, what they all experienced whilst in prison was truly horrific, especially Korey Wise, who having been beaten many times in jail – sometimes almost to his death – was often placed in solitary confinement for long periods at a time.

A truly harrowing scene in the film is of Korey (played by the brilliant Emmy Award-winning actor Jharrel Jerome) shouting ‘Why doesn’t anyone care about me?’.

This, I think sums up the prison system and how many inmates feel, innocent or not.

Whilst DNA evidence ended up clearing their names (how this came to be, is an extraordinary story in itself) and they are all now out of jail, their lives of course, have been forever turned upside down.  How can you get back that time, or how can you ever erase all of those horrific experiences? How can your brain ever really recover from that?

Whilst the exonerated 5 have been able to seek financial compensation, it took a whopping 11 years of fighting in court to be eventually given to them, and the money of course, does not make up for the time and the destruction of their health and mental well-being that they lost in prison due to a justice system that can often be anything but.

Many victims of false incarceration do not ever win any financial justice for their time spent in prison.

Those who targeted these boys, have not been punished for their own despicable behavior, which is another example of how the system gets away with their own criminal activity.

Happy Jail

I am now able to share with you now some more positive stories about what can be done in jails.

Happy Jail is a documentary that is currently streaming on Netflix. The story revolves around Marco O Toral, who became the manager of the Philippine jail known as CPDRC in Cebu province, known for a Michael Jackson dance video that went viral in 2007.  What is immediately fascinating is that Marco was a previous inmate of this exact jail for seven years.

I highly recommend watching this 5 part series as it is very heartwarming and inspiring in that you see for your own eyes, what compassion, kindness, fun, and joy can do for people who have ended up in jail due to the crimes they commit.  Marco Toral, is I think, an extraordinary human being, who was able to keep violence and drug use at a minimum, due to the way he treated the inmates.

Marco would meet every new inmate and treat them with kindness, often giving them money to use at the jail shop.  He would, of course, lay down the rules, and the punishment for breaking them was a painful paddle on the bottom, as a last resort.

Whilst watching Happy Jail, I was struck by how the prisoners were constantly smiling, seemingly enjoying their time, and this is because Marco allowed them to dance, play music, play games, and have their family members not only visit them each week but that it would be in close contact where they would come inside the prison.

I personally feel that perhaps it is enough punishment simply being locked away in the same building for years at a time, never being allowed out until their time is served.  Surely, during this time we can then work on encouraging people to learn from their own mistakes from a spiritual level? 

Marco received harsh criticism by the media and some government members as he was seen as being ‘not tough enough’ on the prisoners, but you perhaps you will see for yourself if you think this was the case.

Bastoy – Norway

Bastoy, which sits on an island in Norway, is quite an incredible place that is doing a remarkable job to rehabilitate prisoners. Inmates, who live in small houses, not cells, are required to look after the island, (which also has its own small shop) have work duties and responsibilities that require them to get close to nature and to work with others.   They learn to also look after themselves and learn to interact well with other people.   There are animals to look after and they can play music, learn cooking and study.

A Governor was interviewed for this short documentary (below) and I think what he said should be how all Governors look at their own prisons.

‘I think my job as a Governer at Bastoy Prison is if I can put a person back into society who has actually been trained to be a good member of society’

Another guard said this:

“We punish them them by taking away their freedom, but we don’t take away their life”

Halden Prison – Norway

Also in Norway, Halden Prison is known as the worlds most ‘humane’ prison.  It is designed with an architecture that takes into account it’s surrounding nature, where prisoners have access to beautiful views of the land, because connecting with nature is good for the human spirit.  The warden’s of Halden state that ‘being imprisoned’ is enough punishment.

Punta de Rieles – Urugay

Located in the Uruguayan capital of Montevideo, Punta de Rieles is known as “the prison from which nobody wants to escape”.  It is set on a 100-acre property which has lots of outdoor space where inmates can live, work, do yoga, have pets, and play music. At Punta de Rieles, the focus is on helping prisoners prepare to go back into society after they leave.

The prison’s director shared that their focus is to help the inmates be ‘better’ people than when they first arrived. Using ‘repression’ won’t rehabilitate people. They allow their inmates to study and also teach them how to start up a business. The funds earned enable the inmates to purchase things from the prison shop, or they can save up for when they leave.  Punta De Rieles has a bakery, restaurant, brick factory, barbers, carpentry, and grocery stores.

Rehabilitation IS Possible

It seems very clear that the common way people are incarcerated today is simply not helping them become better people.

However, rehabilitation IS possible, and the way we can actually do this is seen in the last few documentaries above.

They all have a common theme, allow the inmates to have access to nature, to not be ‘locked up’ in ugly and depressing surroundings, give them responsibilities, encourage them to learn skills, have a purpose and above all, to be treated with compassion.

Whilst it must be said, that rehabilitating serial killers and very violent gang members might not be an easy task, it is something that must be attempted. Violence breeds violence so if we want to put an end to it, we have to see all people as human beings that may have had a very damaging upbringing which has affected their behavior.

Read More:

Research Shows That Time In Prison Does Not Successfully “Rehabilitate” Most Inmates

How Shelter Cats Are Changing Prisoners Lives In Indiana

Why Brazil Gives Ayahuasca To Prison Inmates On Their Path To Redemption

The Top 10 Most Startling Facts About People of Color and Criminal Justice in the United States

Jennifer Gonnermans Interviews With Kalief Browder

The Business Model Of Private Prisons

Global Prison Population Soars

kaliefbrowderfoundation.com

Research Shows That Time In Prison Does Not Successfully “Rehabilitate” Most Inmates

The basic idea of rehabilitation through imprisonment is that a person who has been incarcerated will never want to be sent back to prison after they have been set free. It is hoped that an inmate’s experiences while locked up will leave such a lasting impression that a former prisoner will do whatever it takes to avoid a second term.

Unfortunately, research has consistently shown that time spent in prison does not successfully rehabilitate most inmates, and the majority of criminals return to a life of crime almost immediately. Many argue that most prisoners will actually learn new and better ways to commit crimes while they are locked up with their fellow convicts. They can also make connections and become more deeply involved in the criminal world. (source)

Ignorance is so convenient. But time’s up. We all have a choice to make, and hopefully, it will be an informed one.

Chances are we all probably fall into one of two populations. One: thoughtful, compassionate, aware and self-aware, or two: thoughtless, selfish, unaware, and self-righteous.

Creating Criminals

So, where do criminals come from? When we believed slavery was proper, we believed some people were given to us to righteously use and abuse. Today, in its place we have what I call The Tulip Theory. When I was newly married about 35 years ago, my husband and I were into gardening and we sent away for 100 tulip bulbs from Holland, never mind that we lived in the San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles County or that climate change was yet to be considered.

The Tulip Theory

The endeavor to garden was life-changing for me. The bulbs arrived. I opened the box and there, on top of 100 tulip bulbs, was a note: “The wonderful thing about these bulbs is you can’t go wrong. They don’t need any care. You don’t have to water them, feed them or put them into the ground. Whatever you do or don’t do, they will still blossom into beautiful blooms even if you leave them on a shelf in the dark.” I put down the piece of paper and said to my husband, “Oh, my God. I was raised on The Tulip Theory.”

Prisoners were raised on The Tulip Theory, and some of us look at them as though they were given to us to righteously despise or to give us the illusion of superiority, when we’re not doing so well, ourselves. Today, lots of us share the philosophy of the tulip farmers, even professors, attorneys, and doctors, who may end up raising unhappy children by setting expectations without nurturing and coaching their children into achievement with regular prompts such as, “I know you can do this.”

Some parents raise ‘timebombs’ and shooters, in part because we leave our babies in the hands of daycare providers or rotating neighbors and relatives – this can be very psychologically damaging for some children.  The economy requires a two-income household now, so it is easy to see why both parents do end up working.  Working during the formative first five years of our children’s lives used to be a choice. Now, not so much.

The very wealthy want even more money. What they have is never enough. The pharmaceutical industry, the insurance industry and the educational industry all want you to believe in The Tulip Theory aka take the side of Nature in the Nature vs. Nurture debate. You have been told that the jury is in and the scientific evidence supports genetic programming of personality.

When I was a young, new therapist, I didn’t believe it, but my clients did. They brought me articles about evidence that their personalities were inborn. They brought articles about the Scandinavian Studies, the Schizophrenic Studies, the Babies Separated at Birth Studies, and the Adoption Studies.

I was never a science major. That wasn’t my thing. However, it appeared to me I had no choice. So, for twenty-five years, more or less, I researched the research. I had to teach myself how to read a study because they were written so that few would ever understand them. I finally got it down, and I uncovered and listed about 20 techniques that scientists use repeatedly to get the results they are paid to get (Snyder, The Search for the Unholy Grail, 2016).

I listed these techniques so that anyone could read, assess and see through a behavioral study. The best-designed studies and research questions can be replicated. The worst cannot. The best studies represent childhood causes. The worst represent genetic alleged causality. Some scientists from the Human Genome Project admitted that finding such genetic instruction isn’t supported by research or the design of the human brain to include inborn behavioral programs, after all.

All this is to say the jury is in, whether you want to know it or not. Criminals are made, not born. Sometimes, even with good parenting, a community can be so saturated with survival behavior, a parent can’t win. Still, there are consequences to parenting choices. Most of us don’t know them. So, we depend upon The Tulip Theory. How we raise a child will determine how successful and praiseworthy they become or how damned they will be. There but for the grace of God go I, right?

Not convinced? In another book I wrote about how anyone—parent, judge, school counselor, therapist, forensic evaluator—could assess a childhood on a single sheet of paper, and within a 10% margin of error, predict forward a person’s aptitude for a successful life or not (Snyder, Predicting and Understanding Behavior According to Critical Childhood Experiences, 2016). The same measures can help us understand backward how a person became the way they are.

Criminals Are Made, Not Born

Criminals are made, not born. In this book I evaluate the childhoods of 25 famous people known for extreme behaviors, so the reader can see how their childhoods created who they became.

Columbine, Sandy Hook, El Paso, ad infinitum, all had killers who were predictable and understandable, yet we continue to wonder how a person could do such a horrible thing. In 1988, I spent about twenty hours interviewing The Night Stalker, Richard Ramirez, and realized that no one honors thy father and mother like a serial killer. I studied the childhood of Jeffrey Dahmer in depth only to discover he killed in order to keep from being left. As an infant, his mother wouldn’t touch him. Even after he was old enough to climb out of his crib, she pushed him away from her. I watched the Menendez Brothers trial from beginning to end and heard jurors say afterwards, “I was abused, and I didn’t grow up to kill my parents.”

We don’t understand cause and effect yet.

How To Make A Criminal

Over the years, I developed a formula of not only what critical childhood experiences it takes to turn out to be dangerous or amazing people but in what combinations and orders these events need to take place.

Attachment Is The Foundation

A violent person has to have had an insecure attachment, to have been physically abused, and probably emotionally shamed as well. They too have to have been raised in a family with a repression ethic, as the underground child, but they also have to have been raised within a family blame ethic versus a family self-reflection ethic. If all three of these factors are present, there will be violence. If one factor is missing, there will not be violence without provocation. Repeat: If a child has had a secure attachment, she will never have the drive to exploit or harm another person, even after a high dose of abuse.

Put another way, a secure attachment in the first five years of life makes a child not only immune to long-term effects of abuse, but just about guarantees resilience as well. I could go on, but that’s not what I came to tell you today. I came to talk about why people become criminals and what we can do about it, if we care to invest in the quality of human development.

Criminal behavior involves a legacy of abuse, like slavery, racism, devaluations, and survival, but it can also be linked to families who simply fail to form an attachment with their child, employ abusive discipline, judge and blame others, and then insist their child not complain.

Insecure Attachment

To create a poverty-based criminal, start with an insecure attachment because most of these moms and dads have to work. Add issues of deprivation and chronic concerns of survival. Add emotional abuse, a blame ethic (versus a self-reflection ethic), and a repression ethic (versus an expression ethic). Depending upon the seriousness of the crime, some or all of these features will be formative in childhood.

Then, there are the adult ‘modifiers’. The adult child could run into a wonderful group of friends or a religious environment of ethics and character, or the adult child could hang with drug addicts or gang members that influence them in another direction.

Majority Of Criminals Come From Deprivation and Broken Attachments

Note that the way to create the majority of criminals comes from broken attachments, deprivation and a lack of parental investment, but the way to create some of the most brutal criminals in the world is to give them broken attachments, to not give the child a stable and constant parental figure, as well as to over-indulge them with an entitlement to exploit and abuse others. The most terrible people on the planet murder, torture, exploit and abuse others. They are our dictators. Supporting them are business people without scruples, who invest in the entitled exploitation of others.

Prevention, Recovery And Forgiveness

How do you feel about punishment and retribution? Have you thought you would like to rub someone into the ground for their harmful choices? Have you ever asked, “How could someone do this?” That question reveals that one doesn’t yet consider that meanness comes from a different way of thinking born of a different set of experiences and history.

This has to be Awareness 101.

The language we use, the values we have, the understandings we reference are not inborn. We don’t know what we don’t know. And even if we had some peripheral exposure to ethics, we disregard them, because those ethics never protected us. As a matter of fact, it may enrage us that others get to have such pretty lives, and we didn’t. We believe what we experience.

We take as true what we are taught unless we are given permission to question. If you want a person to think differently or better, you have to ensure they have the wherewithal or freedom to think differently.

Would we be willing to rehabilitate them in a controlled environment rather than punish them? Of course, we need a multi-tiered program where people earn their ways into more privileged populations. The hardcore prisoners don’t get to go up to the next tier unless they soften.

Can we then grant them trauma therapy and classes on adulting and relationship skills? Can we grant them an education? Can we grant them an opportunity to have relationships?

Can we find pleasure in the satisfaction they discover from praise for a job well done? Would we grant them a permanent companion, a dog, who loves them and only them (given the dog is safe)? Would we allow them to enjoy playing tennis?

Would we grant them a television to watch the news or educational programming? Would we want them to have good books to read, especially literature and sociological studies? Would we grant them the right to vote if it makes them feel a part of the system to which they never thought they could belong?

What do you think about redemption?

Can we grant them another round to try to live a better life? If a person learns to think differently and comes to regret their bad and harmful choices, are we capable of forgiving them? Can we take our boot off their neck? Can we grant them some guarded faith that they can turn their lives around? Or, would we insist that they couldn’t possibly change and should therefore never be forgiven?

Can we give them the opportunities we had that they never had? Can we believe in them, or would we be the people who refuse to believe in redemption? Would we, then, be hypocrites?

How would we assess whether a person has changed or could change? Do we have criteria by which we evaluate whether or not a person has genuinely changed? Can we recognize true remorse? Can we credit humility? Can we look for different choices? Do we recognize the dangers of negative mirrors, wherein a person can never outgrow their reputation? Can we identify a healthy dialogue supported by virtuous values? Can we praise new choices and show appreciation?

Rather than holding them as people we self-righteously despise, we might find our own reward in helping them take the high road and consider that a person never chose their own fate but lived out only what they knew. If we give them new experiences, we might find that we are richer ourselves, and capable of investing in a world of better people. Our planet is down to the final challenges between the enlightened and the greedy.

What side will you be on?

This article was written for Collective Evolution by Dr Faye Snyder.

Dr. Faye Snyder is a psychologist, marriage and family therapist, and forensic evaluator. She is the founder and clinical director of the non-profit Parenting and Relationship Counseling (PaRC) Foundation in Granada Hills, California. She has taught developmental psychology at the California State University, Northridge. Most importantly, Dr. Faye, as she prefers to be called, along with her husband, Ron, is the proud parent of daytime Emmy winning Scott Clifton, her laboratory and her evidence. Dr. Faye is a late bloomer and is rapidly producing products designed to help parents heal their children from previous injuries or raise their children for greatness.