Criminal Personality

Stanton Samehow and Samuel Yochelson did a study on the personality of criminals and called it the Criminal Personality study. Yochelson had four objectives for this study “they were to(1) understand the personality makeup of the criminal, (2) to establish technique that could be used to alter the personality disorders that produce crime, (3) to encourage an understanding of legal responsibility and (4) to establish techniques that can be effective in preventing criminal behavior. ” (Samenow).

The study had two hundred and fifty- five participants and their backgrounds varied as well as their race, culture, and class status. The study had participants that were confined to the hospital that were found to be insane, as well as criminals that were not confined to a hospital. “they began their work believing that crooks were the maladjusted products of bad environments.

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But after probing the psyches of hundreds of inmates, they decided that the criminals weren’t sick, they were just very good at manipulating psychologists.Convinced that classic psychiatry was wasted on these men, they devised a therapeutic technique designed to force criminals to confront their behavior realistically” (Biema, 1984). The participants were offered therapy as a possibility to be relived from their punishments. Samenow and Yochelson both trained in the Freudian school of psychoanalysis. “The first four years of the criminal personality project involved rigorous psychodynamic therapeutic practices with the offender subjects. ” (Samenow).

The goal of the study was to locate the roots of the criminal behavior, also part of the goal was to provide the criminal information on how he could change their ways. “Psychoanalytic protocol mandates, family conflicts, Oedipal complexes, and childhood traumas were all evaluated so as to gain insight to the etiology of the criminal’s making” (Samenow). the study also considered sociologic influences. “Most of the offenders studied in this study appeared to realize their criminal parts of their lives and understand that they need to change.Further into the study Yochelson found that the mental ill patients in fact did not change their criminal ways. “they were violating hospital rules, using alcohol and drugs, stealing hospital supplies and committing a plethora of other offenses” (Samenow). The patients were providing excuses for their criminality and offered false answers to the researchers. The patients only did this because they believed that if the researchers believed they had changed the patients would in turn gain freedom.

It turns out that not of the patients were actually mentally ill.The researchers soon realized that they needed a different perspective on the criminals. They then found that all of the patients had common personality and behavioral traits from an early age no matter what their background was. The researchers then focused on parent child and the childhood environment and found “interactions only reinforced the criminal’s blame of others as well as his position of claiming to be victimized” (Samenow). The research stopped focusing on causes and instead focused on thinking patterns.Samenow and Yochelson found that the only common thing between the participants was the thinking pattern. This focus‘s goal was to see the world in the view of the criminal. .

”In general, the criminal saw the world in “chess-board” terms, as people were their pawns to manipulate at will for their own personal gain” (Samenow). The criminals were found to have developed anti-social behavior when they were young, and that the criminal willingly removed himself from the rules of society. The young criminal often fought, lied, and stole.

The young criminal also does not like affection, is restless dissatisfied and irritable, the criminal engages in communication to make others less suspicious, he also believes that teachers, parents and others telling him what to do in imposing on him, sets himself apart from others, is angry, lacks emotions, only cares about himself, is not responsible, and struggles with murphy’s law. The criminal has low self-esteem. The criminal also fears criticism. The thinking patterns were considered errors in thanking and were displayed more by criminals then non criminals.A person can have a personality of a criminal but not necessarily become a criminal. Most criminals will victimize their parents, after the parents the criminal will then try to victimize the other people in their life. The criminal believes that people are beneficial and will help the criminal get what they want. The criminal also dislikes work, school or both.

The Criminal does not believe that he should have to be around others. ‘Samenow contends it is the children who reject school long before school rejects them” (Samenow). The criminal surprisingly has a set of morals.

Samenow believes that criminals know right from wrong.Samenow says “When it suits him, he is law abiding and even takes pride in being meticulous about it” (Zimmerman). A criminal will not do something if he believes it to be wrong. Samenow disagrees with other psychologists by stating this “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” (Zimmerman).Yochelson says that to change a criminal one has to control his anger and thoughts, set new goals, and think about ones morals.

“Criminals experience brief periods of dissatisfaction with their lives during which they sincerely want to change. Those in corrections much 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” (Zimmerman). The study also says that thinking in a new way is the most important part of cognitive therapy.Samenow does not believe that bad parenting causes criminality.

He says that some criminals have very good parents. He also believes that Peer pressure does not cause criminality, as well as believing that criminals do know right from wrong. Samenow does not believe that the social environment has anything to do with a criminal’s personality.

Society deals with criminals in four ways “retribution, confinement, deterrence, and rehabilitation. The most relevant one to Samenow’s field, rehabilitation, is perhaps, in his opinion, the one least understood” (Samenow).Samenow believes that errors in thinking begin early.

He does believe that criminals can change and that they need to know that there is a substitute for crime. He also believe that the criminal must learn to think in a new way. For the habilitative process to have an effect the criminal need to hit bottom before the program to work, must accept that he will always be a criminal, the criminal must be willing to change, the person working with the criminal must know how the criminal thinks, and the person working with the criminal must be able to apply knowledge to the change process.

The first step in the process is to interview the criminal. He is told immediately that only a complete turnaround in his thinking and behavior will work… The second step in the process begins with a one-on-one counseling session. Samenow does all of the talking and presents to the criminal the way in which the criminal thinks” (Samenow). In order for the change to be successful the criminal must allow criticism, be responsible and reliable, not use drugs, use his time and money wisely, and willing to improve.This theory like all theory has its critic’s one critic Oliver J.

Keller “dismisses Samenow’s book as “sensational, full of lurid stories, dogmatic statements and contradictions. The whole thing is ridiculous. ” Charles E.

Silberman, author of the critically acclaimed 1978 study Criminal Violence, Criminal Justice, is particularly offended by Samenow’s insistence that environment doesn’t cause crime. “The fact is that the majority of street criminals come from slums,” Silberman says. “It’s not their genes, it’s their environment” (Biema, 1984).

Author: Tommy Hale


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