|By Anthony Gangi
When classes are taught in regards to the power of manipulation, the educators provide a learning experience that centers on dispositional factors that lead to target selection by the inmate population. Studies in social psychology have proven that we judge the failure of others in a manner that exploits character flaws and one's personal failure is judged in a manner that involves the study of the situation. Situations are very powerful and have a tremendous influence on our actions.
Inmates are masters at understanding their environment and exploiting the situational factors that can be used as an aid in their manipulative tactics. For this article, I am focusing on the "us vs. them" tactic. This is a key tactic that must be understood in order to gain the knowledge needed in understanding how an inmate can take advantage of a situation in which a staff member's vulnerability was created in a manner that lies outside their disposition.
There was a proposed situation that was brought up in our discussion board (Systems Information Analysis) on Linkedin in which a supervisor reprimands their subordinate in a manner that lies in view of the inmate population. The supervisor then leaves the unit and the staff member is left feeling demeaned and inferior. Through the supervisor's actions, a situation has been created and can easily be exploited by the inmate population. A situation that will build from the inmate's ability to become immediately empathetic, partnered with the staff member's need to save face. The staff member has become vulnerable. This vulnerability stems from a created situation by the supervisor in which the inmate is now able to exploit.
In understanding manipulation and how it presents itself, either covert or overt, an individual must understand the power of the situation. For the staff member, in the above mentioned scenario, their situation has changed and is now being controlled by emotion. As for the inmates, the situation presented to them now shows a staff member who thoughts lie outside of logic and, instead, stem from emotional blindness. The staff member may feel the natural reaction to redeem themselves by venting to the empathetic ear displayed by the "overly concerned" inmate. At this point, the inmate's advice may be centered in a way to employ the tactic mentioned above, "us vs. them”. In order to move forward with this tactic the inmate will expose many techniques that highlight concern, friendliness, and similarity. These techniques are used to disguise the inmate's true intention. The true intention, mentioned above, is centered on changing the staff member's perception of the aforementioned inmate. Eventually, the change in perception creates a different situation for the staff member. This staff member may no longer see an inmate as an inmate. The empathetic ear displayed by the inmate has led this staff member to believe that the inmate understands their situation and, therefore, is now being led down a manipulative path that was created by the supervisor's unprofessionalism an aided by the inmate population. The staff member's need to feel competent lies on their need to justify their situation. Having demeaned the staff member in view of the inmate population, the supervisor has created a situation in which this above mentioned staff member may feel the need to redeem themselves. This redemption may come in the hands of an empathetic ear provided by the “overly concerned” inmate. In some cases, manipulation can arise through situations that we, as staff members, produce. We need to be logical and prepare ourselves for the consequences, both good and bad, that follow our actions. We need to be objective in our line our work and not be blinded by subjective emotion. Inmates are masters at exploiting chance opportunities and will easily maneuver into position when the opportunity or situation arises. As mentioned above, the “us vs. them” technique is easily employed when a situation arises in which most of the hard work is already done. Staff that has been belittled in public view now becomes an open door to that above mentioned tactic. Overall, we must know that an inmate can take their time and choose who they believe will be the perfect target for manipulation, or we can save them the work by creating a situation in which the target is provided.
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
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