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Home > Security, Self Scrutiny, Training > Taming the “untamable”: a set up scenario

Taming the “untamable”: a set up scenario

March 9th, 2011


Almost all of us mellow with age. In corrections, the trend is seen in many offender’s files. Normally, there’s a large chunk misconduct reports issued early on in the incarceration. As the offender spends time in the system, the tickets typically (though not necessarily always) diminish.


Perhaps the same is true of most staff. We tend to write fewer tickets as our careers proceed. There are many reasons for this. We develop other valid manners of gaining compliance.  Of course, the natural course of aging is also an agent of change.


But there are some offenders who seemed to earn copious misconduct reports no matter the place in their incarceration. Some may attribute this to a “never surrender” sort of attitude. Perhaps there are other factors, such as pressures from other inmates, the stress of institutional living, or some bad news from the streets. Whatever the reason, there appears to be an untamable inmate type. The compliance of simple rules becomes a battle of wills.


Imagine, though, that the untamable behaviors used as a persona.  Feigned disobedience can be an effective tool to gain leverage from certain types of staff.  


This is how works. An offender with a good sense of self-control, a decent acting ability, and time to think about it selects a target. The vulnerable staff person could be a fearful sort, one, for example, who is afraid to issue discipline. Their body language suggests a timid nature.


Another target could be a strict disciplinarian. This is sort who strictly adheres to the rules, never deviating or offering progressive discipline.


It is likely that the target will be the fearful sort rather than the disciplinarian type. Perhaps this is because the disciplinarian will be more difficult to handle as their defenses are rooted. Of course, as with all situations that have a human touch, there are too many variables to issue absolute statements on whom the targets may be.


The handler tests discipline by breaking rules. They start off as seemingly incorrigible. Based on the reaction of the target, the manipulator will either continue to escalate or feign capitulation. In the capitulation phase, the offender feigns compliance. After a few weeks the “untamable” inmate will relate that a staff member reformed them. They will, in effect announced that they’ve had an epiphany – and that their target is the reason that they have changed.  And if the target is easily flattered, a “bond” has been made. Once that has been done, it is a matter of time and maintenance in making the target perform the prisoner’s will.


 Vulnerable staff are an Achilles’ heel in any corrections operation. When they seem to bond with prisoners, they often distance themselves from staff. Whether or not the target is a pariah, they’re subject to manipulation from enterprising offenders. In the course of the setup, targets may eventually bring in contraband such as drugs or weapons or money. Naturally, all of his chips away at security.


Despite the multitude of articles, volumes literature, and frequently recurring trainings, some staff will still be handled by those prisoners who endeavor to manipulate. That is just an unfortunate part of the job. Still, in many places and at different times, advice has been given to all. It bears repeating. Do not disenfranchise colleagues. Look for signs of over-familiarity. Check yourself – are you exhibiting signs of favoritism? Know your agency’s policy on over-familiarization.


There are so many scams that have been perpetrated on staff. Unfortunately, the ruse of taming the “untamable” is alive and well and likely in your facility. As with so many things in the corrections world, staff have to rely on their training, their good sense, their experience, and their colleagues.

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joebouchard Security, Self Scrutiny, Training

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