|By Anthony Gangi|
Teaching a course on inmate manipulation can be a very trying effort. As we have mentioned in previous discussions, multiple tactics can be employed by the inmate that center on covert methods that include minimal compliance or misdirection. These methods, mentioned above, are covertly pushed forward by the inmate in an effort to gain ground and go on the offensive. As an instructor, we have to maintain a curriculum that adapts to the changing methods employed by the inmate, as well as prepare the defenses needed so staff can save ground and, if needed, move forward.
Manipulation by an inmate is an all out effort to gain ground. Gaining ground gives the inmate the control needed to regulate their stay within the confines of their respective institutions. It is at this point that I must highlight that staff CAN NEVER GIVE GROUND. Whether, by the inmate's use of covert aggression, or overt force, a staff must hold their ground and, at all times, maintain and enforce their sense of control. For a manipulator, losing ground is not an option and, therefore, if the inmate senses that you will not maneuver your position they will move onto an easier target. Inmates maneuver their manipulative tactic in a manner that maintains minimal effort and greatest reward. By this standard, a staff member, for example, who feels the constant "need to please" becomes an easy target to exploit. The staff member's "need to please" becomes the vulnerability needed for the inmate to gain ground. The inmate will view this staff member as being weak and, therefore, easily vulnerable to manipulation.
As mentioned in our course, there are multiple manipulative tactics that can be employed by the inmate population that directly relate to either the vulnerability of the staff member, or certain situational factors that can be used by the inmate to gain ground. These tactics that are employed by the inmate fit perfectly within the context of the situation and create, in a sense, a collective effort between the staff and the inmate. I say the word collective because manipulation is a two way street and, therefore, a manipulative inmate cannot gain ground unless the staff member gives in. The inmate will seize the opportunity and plan their attack in manner that fits the situation at hand. If you are soft, the inmates will walk all over you. If you are strictly by the book, the inmates will learn your routine. If you can be made to feel obligated, the inmates will begin doing "favors for you". If you are down on your luck, an inmate will know exactly what to say to lift your spirits. If you have an inability to be consistent, an inmate will persist until your "no" becomes a "yes". If you become personal with an inmate, the inmate will use your personal information and create a bond that stretches outside of professionalism and into the world of undue familiarity. These are just a list of some of the tactics the inmate population has perfected over time. It is within the staff member to discover their own sense of vulnerability and change it into strength.
Our course is centered on two factors: who we are and who we must be. At times, this can bring conflict because there are certain qualities that define the essence of our being. Having said that, who we are and who we must be provides the separation needed between our work and home. Maintaining that balance provides the staff member with the tools needed to defend their position against a manipulative inmates and, if need be, push forward.
Inmates have all the time needed to employ what tactic fits best. The inmate's world is centered on their ability to observe staff. The staff members that are considered weak will be separated from other staff members by methods that bring about the "us vs. them" mentality. The inmates separate the weak staff members from support staff because they know that through our unified brotherhood/sisterhood we cannot be broken. In their mind, the further the inmate can separate staff, the more likely their end game will result in a major reward. *On a side note, even if there is no reward in sight, inmates have so much time to kill that they may simply find enjoyment in just the game being played.*
During our course, we promote discussions. We, at Systems Information Analysis, realize that communication is key to knowledge. Our class is open to all levels of correctional staff, from custody to civilian, so we can begin to build a bond that is needed to collectively become a unified, unstoppable, force. Somewhere along the line we have lost that connection between civilian and custody and we, at Systems Information Analysis, feel the urgent need to bring that connection back. Collectively, custody and civilian staff form a bond that nothing, but omnipotence could break. In closing, we, at Systems Information Analysis, know that corrections is a profession that has more DOWNS than it does UPS. Our public service is never seen in full light and recognition for a job well done rarely ever comes. In essence, this is a good thing because the brothers and sisters that have committed themselves to this field do the job for one sole purpose; WE ARE OUR BROTHER'S AND OUR SISTER'S KEEPER. It is behind the wall that we realize that we are our brother and our sister's keeper. The training we provide is meant to keep our bond strong. If you see an officer or staff member in trouble, talk to them. Show them support. At the end of the day, the manipulative tactics that are being employed may be so minimal (at first) that the staff member may not realize they are being "PLAYED". Take our course, sit down and participate in discussions that can help us gain the ground needed so control can go back into the hands of the "KEEPER". BY TAKING THIS COURSE, YOU MAY BE THE ONE PROVIDING THE ADVICE TO SOMEONE IN NEED. THIS SOMEONE MAY NOT ONLY BE A THREAT TO THEMSELVES, BUT CAN EVEN BE A MORE SERIOUS THREAT TO OTHERS.
For over twelve years, Anthony Gangi has worked in the correctional setting dealing with both male and female offenders. He served on the custody level and has moved through the ranks from line officer to supervisor and has also spent time as an instructor. His background in psychology has helped him to become a leading expert in inmate manipulation.
Anthony is also the host of "Tier Talk", a radio program that looks at corrections from an international level. You can catch "Tier Talk" on Saturday nights at 6 pm Eastern Standard Time on DDV Radio. For more information regarding the show or other publications by Anthony, you can contact him at email@example.com
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT