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The Art of The Con
By Caitlin Donovan
Published: 08/24/2009

Artofconad 1 Even after completing 27 years of service in local corrections, publishing eight books and teaching classes on corrections, Gary Cornelius still has much to share. In his most recent book, “The Art of The Con: Avoiding Offender Manipulation, Second Edition.” Cornelius discusses the issue of inmate manipulation. By combining his own findings with other expert accounts in “Voices from the Field,” Cornelius delivers a powerful account he hopes will be used both in the classroom and during staff training.

His latest work gives the reader valuable tips on how to deal with inmate manipulation. He believes it’s important for those who work with inmates to understand the game of inmate manipulation because, “The offender has nothing to lose and everything to gain. On the other hand, the correctional worker has everything to lose, and there’s really no gain,” Cornelius says.

He goes onto explain that the inmate may flirt with the staff member, voice several compliments, or try to talk to them about their problems. They are usually not looking for a friendship, but contraband such as cigarettes or drugs. If they are discovered in these acts, they normally face being written up or a similar consequence. If the staff member gives in to their games, they could lose their jobs, their families and anything else that may be important to them. “You’re going into this environment and they’re going to play a game with you. Like any game, if you play, you have to know your opponent,” explained Cornelius.

Cornelius learned a great deal while researching for this particular book. Interestingly enough he learned more about inmates in his research. He said, “I learned that there are no limits to an offender’s imagination…nothing surprises me…the imagination is endless. It knows no bounds.” He described the lengths that offenders will go to and the fact that they have no problem fabricating stories, faking mental illness and thoughts of suicide. Further, he explained, “They’ll come up with very good embellished stories. That’s what makes this subject interesting. It’s not a subject that you get tried of reading about. It’s just amazing what I came away with.”

Cornelius began his work in corrections as a police officer and moved into corrections. He has received numerous awards for his efforts in the corrections community. Further, has used his knowledge to teach classes at George Mason University as well as for various criminal justice academies in the Virginia area. He always tells his students to get an idea of what the corrections field is really like. He recommends, “Get internships, don’t worry about getting paid. That experience will stay with you for the rest of your life. You can always put that on an application or a resume, and you get to see what the good folks in criminal justice and corrections actually go through.”

Often people wonder why a person would be interested in working in a jail or prison. Cornelius took no time for hesitation when he said, “When you work in a jail or a prison with inmates, no two days are alike. Every day is different and there are some days when you see inmates straighten out and it’s a good feeling.” He described a day when he saw a man who used to be an inmate in the facility where he was working. The man had done his time and moved on with his life and was raising a family. Cornelius made sure to emphasize that not all inmates are bad, which is something that the general public does not always think about when they think of an offender or an inmate.

Five years from now, Cornelius hopes to still be teaching here and there. He also hopes to write another book and pursuing other interests and hobbies such as photography which is something he recently took up. In 2008 he co-founded ETC Consultants, LLC. with friend Tim Manley and hopes to continue to broaden the horizon of this new business. Cornelius is also a history buff and enjoys reading history and fiction, and getting to know his new grand son in his spare time.


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