|Four (4) Types of Correctional Violence
|By Tracy E. Barnhart
When an officer recognizes the type of violence he is facing, he can customize his tactics for de-escalating it on the spot. By taking a general strategy and customizing it to specific tactics, he meets the needs of the moment. In doing this he greatly increases the odds of the situation being resolved without violence. However, not all situations can be resolved non-violently as some may preach. An inmate may want you to place your hands on them for various reasons one being; they think you can’t take them. Though we always attempt to resolve situations without violence and attempt to gain voluntary compliance we have to understand the environment we work in and that violence, intimidation and pain are a reality.
The four types of violence we are going to talk about are:
Counter tactics to Fear response: The way to talk someone down from a fear type situation is that you have to keep pace with them and then begin to slowly bring them down. In a very real sense you become excited with them instead of against them. You do this in a manner that is not threatening. Your body posture, speech pattern and reflect back to them their excitement. You are not projecting fear, but your ’supposed’ excitement is running parallel to his real excitement. By doing this behavior you give them something that they can fixate onto that does not intimidate them or feed their fear. Once you have their attention, you can lead them back into being calm.
The easiest way to explain why this works is to think of a loud TV in the kid’s room. But, instead of trying to shout over the noise, you lower the volume from the bottom of the stairs, using the universal remote. Then they can hear you. In the same way instead of trying to overpower his internal ’spin out’ with your own message, comply or else, you first get him to a point where he can hear you by getting him out of his own head and paying attention to you. You get compliance by getting him to listen to you. You must become a calming figure in their out of control world.
Do NOT attempt to intimidate or threaten a person in a fear state. Nor should you yell at them or display that you are not safe to attack. That will only convince them that they are correct about the danger you pose. You want the spin out to slow down, not speed up. In attempting to establish “forceful control” over the person, you often will only crank up the rpm’s of their spin out. Such actions of your part only convince them that they have something to fear and that violence on their part is warranted. Also, it is not wise to respond to a Fear type the same way you do with a Tantrum, as such response will only result in the person freaking out more.
Fury: type violence occurs when someone has lost their boundaries. They are mentally and emotionally lost out in an emotionally stormy sea. The way the word “boundaries” is usually thought of is from an external point of view. That is to say, what someone will not accept from other people. And while that is true, boundaries also work from an internal perspective. They also serve as a sense of self and standards of conduct, e.g. what you won’t do to others. With this in mind, what they are more like is property lines. Standards that define who you are and your place in the world. When these are lost, you sort of lose your world. Fury type violence is someone trying to put the world back together and to regain control. He’s trying to get things back into shape by using violence.
Fury type of violence is often accompanied by anger. What makes Fury violence easily distinguishable from Tantrum type is the cause is easily identifiable — usually because the person will tell you what set him off. Something happened, he’s pissed off and he’s telling you — and everybody else — about it. Yelling, shouting, flailing of the arms and a fixation on the source of his anger are common behaviors.
Usually, Fury violence is based on a perceived wrong done to the person. Quite often this is a legitimate complaint e.g. the guy’s wife slept with someone else, something was taken from him, another guy cheated or insulted him, etc… In short, something has happened to the Fury type that has rocked his world. The way he thought the world is…or should be…has been proven false. The person is trying to get things back under control through frenzied actions, yelling, screaming, posturing and quite possibly violence.
Counter tactics to Fury: In the movie Hellboy, John Hurt looks at a young FBI agent and says “There are things that go bump in the night, Agent Meyers. We are the ones that bump back.” This attitude sums up how to handle a Fury type. He’s pushing, you push back. Since the person in fury has lost his boundaries, you give him some. You tell him what to do and how to act in easy step by step understandable verbiage. And you do it in a way that cuts through his internal fury.
The most effective response to a fury type of violence is up-in-his-face-pissed-off -drill-instructor orders to comply. Orders that if he doesn’t follow he will be put there. For example: If you tell him to sit down, then you sit him down — then you start talking again. Even though it looks like you are ready to rock and roll you’re main weapon is still your mouth. The small physical brush is only to give him a taste of what he will face if he doesn’t comply. There are however, three important conditions of using the drill instructor approach.
First: Compliance must be a condition of being heard. You’ll listen to him, but not like this. When he complies with your orders or requests, then you’ll listen. If he wants his grievances heard he has to calm down. These both give him a choice on ways to get what he wants one of which isn’t working so hot, and it gets him to start self-regulating. In order to get his point across he has to slow down and start working with you.
Second: If he is not attacking, you only do what you say and nothing more. For example: If you tell him to sit down as a condition of being heard and he doesn’t, you sit him down. You do not throw him to the ground and cuff him for failure to comply. That is unless he tries to stand up again. But that is the penalty for failing to comply, not because you are a bully who is beating him up. You do not need to dominate him; you only need to get him back to self-regulating. The reason doing nothing more than you said is important is that it is critical component in him finding boundaries again. While it is not exactly establishing trust, it is establishing consistency. It is cause and effect. You said this, he refused, it happened anyway. Working closely with this idea is you tell him what is going to happen if he doesn’t stay put. You said sit, he didn’t, and you sat him down. Then you tell him in no uncertain terms what is going to happen if he tries to stand up. Namely he’s going to be placed on the floor. Now he’s got a choice, talk to you sitting or prone out on the floor.
Third: As you get compliance, ease off. There is a concept in driving called threshold braking. In short, you adjust the pressure on the brake as you slow down. As the vehicle slows down you don’t need to push as hard. You always stay under the threshold where you will be thrown forward. The lack of this skill is why when riding with inexperienced drivers you will be rocketed forward when they stop the car. They are applying the same brake pressure at 5 mph that they were applying at 35.
The same goes for getting compliance from a Fury type. Remember your goal is not to establish dominance, but rather to get him back to self-regulating. If you continue to come on too strong, you will only blow him further out in his emotionally stormy sea. Do not try to reason with a Fury type until after the initial compliance is achieved. They need boundaries set NOW! Attempting to talk and reason with them as an opening gambit fails to get them on the path towards self-regulation. In fact, it is often perceived as added aggravation. Nor should you “go cold” on a Fury type as they need the emotional feedback to push them back to good behavior.
Tantrum: type of violence is different from Fury type in a significant way. While the Fury type has a reason to go off, the Tantrum type is looking for an excuse to go off. And any excuse, action or reason will do.
Tantrum types are also anger based. Unlike Fury types however, who can be Average Joes that something happens to set them off, Tantrum types tend to be chronically angry. They are like a boiling pot always inches away from boiling over. As such they use violence as a form of self-regulation. For these types, violence is a means to release the constant pressure their world view puts them under. In other words the world is constantly not behaving the way they want it to and this is the source of their chronic anger. Instead of changing their expectations, they vent this anger through regular violent episodes. When the pressure is too much inside of them, they go looking for an excuse to go off on someone.
In this culture there is an assumption of sanity. That is to say, normally, when you are dealing with someone you grant them the assumption that they are sane. As such we expect a degree of consistency and reason from a person. When someone doesn’t, we end up being lost and confused. The violation of this expectation is the earmark of a Tantrum type. Tantrum types thrive on escalating, unrealistic and erratic demands from other people. The failure to meet these demands, the most common forms of refusal or fear will provide the excuses they need to become violent. Creating fear and confusion within their victims is part of the tantrum type’s enjoyment, control over the situation and power.
Dealing with a Tantrum Type is like handling a poisonous snake; it requires specialized protocols and a good supply of anti-venom. The anti-venom for Tantrum types is extremely effective defensive tactics. These are required to rob the Tantrum type from achieving a secondary victory. Still, anti-venom is not nearly as good as not getting bit in the first place. Tantrum types feed on emotional responses; this includes anger created by their actions. Normal responses and verbal tactics do not work with a tantrum type because these responses only feed into the Tantrum type’s perception that they have control over you. When they think that, then they will attack. Any emotional response or tactical response is further complicated by the Tantrum thrower’s constant zig zagging and changing of direction. When he encounters resistance on one front, all he has to do is change directions. Most people cannot move their defenses that fast.
This is further complicated by the constant underlying theme of pending violence with Tantrum types. While Fear and Fury types can work their way up to violence, often the Tantrum type is already there. As I said earlier, he’s just looking for an excuse. Tantrum types will often Feign verbal threats or do aborted combative lunges at you in order to provoke a defensive reaction from you. The truth is that these movements aren’t even close to being real attacks yet as they are out of range. But, IF you react to these feints, he will know he has gotten over on you. He now knows that you are scared of him and he’s going to run with it. In order to deal with Tantrum types you must know how to shadow dance.
Another complication for dealing with Tantrum types is that often they are putting on a show for others. This is seen in an incident on the pod with other inmates looking on. This fact is especially important to recognize in an inmate population. Where they aren’t just concerned with venting their hostility, but they are also reinforcing their status and their “props.” Remember, tantrum type is looking for an emotional response; he’s not particular from whom. While public display is not always the case, understanding the importance of an audience is critical for how to handle them.
Tantrum types might seem erratic and unpredictable, but in a very real sense they are extremely predictable. Once you know their goal, all the crazy and random zig-zagging from topic to topic becomes far more understandable. Frenzy types are trying to regain the status quo through violence. Tantrums are looking for a change in their emotional state. And they’re not necessarily picky about how they do it, just so long as it changes. And that is why they seem so unpredictable. They are jack-rabbiting around inside their own head as much as much as their external behavior. But once you remember that he’s trying to change his emotional state, he becomes much more predictable.
Counter tactics to Tantrum: Since a Tantrum type is looking for an emotional reaction, don’t give it to him. You become the Terminator. An impassive, cold, simple response machine that, if necessary, will engage in effective violence. In this manner you remove the audience of you from him. Your flat toned, impassive, emotionless responses do not give him anything to feed off of. His feigns and short lunges do not cause you to react in a startled or defensive manner. Another way of removing emotional response is to remove the audience of others from his little show. Either by ordering everyone out or ordering him into a secluded area. This way he has no one to perform for. As such he can not get other encouragement or support for his actions when you do not respond how he wants.
Again the purpose of de-escalation is to offer him the clear choice to get what he wants through different means than violence. Like the Frenzy type the condition he must meet to get what he wants is to calm down. You will deal with him, but only after he has calmed down. This is the message that your “broken record” approach must follow. As he jack-rabbits from outrage to outrage, you keep on returning to this point.
Unlike Fury types the force you use against Tantrums is immediate and overwhelming. Although you do not react to his feigns when he does come close enough to be a threat you put him down ASAP. It is important to be able to articulate his combative actions and threatening mannerisms or what he was doing that justified dropping him. You set a verbal boundary and when he violates it he is immediately and physically put down. The reason for this is that it puts you ahead of his escalation. Instead of you waiting for attack, you establish a reasonable order to ensure your safety and it is his violation of this order is the casus belli, reason for war. Although not politically correct to say, when dealing with Tantrum types is very much your willingness to do a smack down on them that influences their decision to de-escalate. If they sense hesitation on your part, for whatever reason, they will continue to violently escalate.
This is why you must take control on whether or not it goes physical. An added advantage is that when you set a boundary like this seldom will the Tantrum type move directly into violence. Instead he will commonly, like a defiant child, step into the very area that you told him not to. This gives you a split second advantage because he believes that he is in control of whether or not it will go violent. Suddenly being put down comes as a surprise. A surprise you never let him recover from. In long term incarceration situations, this also has long term benefits for your reputation among the inmates and how safe it is to mess with you when you are being reasonable and operating within procedural guidelines.
Extortion: type violence is basically the violent person giving someone a choice: “Give me/do this or I will hurt you.” Of all the types of violence, this is the one is the most likely to be directed at Leos /Correctional officers. Even though they deal with other inmates who use it all the time, this type of violence is usually directed at non-authority victims such as teachers, maintenance and cooks. The two exceptions are, one, a hostage situation, where the criminal demands something in exchange for not hurting the hostage.
It is the threat of violence for failing to comply that defines this violence type. More to the point however, is it is the violent person attempting behavior modification of another. This is why extortion violence is the foundation of robberies. But the far more common manifestation of this violence types is fights and assaults. The person uses it as method to change unacceptable behavior of another person. In these cases, it is the other person’s failure to comply those results in the violence.
This type of violence can be either predatorily, territorial or behavioral. That is to say that it can be used to remove a person’s options, e.g. give me your wallet or I will hurt you, predatorily. Or it can give someone the option to withdraw from an area, leave or else, territorial. Another way it can be used to give people options is to curb unacceptable behavior, “knock it off or I’ll hit you.” In any case it implies a contract. Do this and I will not hurt you.
Counter tactics to Extortion: As Extortion type is a negotiation, the counter is to renegotiate the contract. When he says “Do this or I will hurt you” you reply “If you try you won’t like what happens.” Notice the difference between “you won’t like what happens” and “Oh yeah? I’ll kick YOUR butt!” The latter is a challenge; the former is an unspecified counter offer. What’s more is it is dependant on his attempt to use violence on you. You are not offering a counter threat; you are telling him he will not get what he wants if he tries to use violence. By using this approach you do not directly challenge or insult him, “Oh yeah m********er, I’ll kick YOUR ass!” This verbiage both challenges AND insults him. It leaves the door open to both individual and institutional repercussions.
Lastly, violent people use vague threats all the time. They do this not only so it will prey on your mind, but also so they cannot be called on the mat for their behavior. This turns their own game back on them. Since they do not like it when this happens, they will often try to get you to commit to a specific that they can use against you. Therefore when they ask “What do you mean by that?” An effective answer is “Let’s not find out.” When the threat of physical violence has been foiled, then you move the conversation towards a more reasonable form of negotiation.
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