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Minimal Compliance (Social Psychology Being Taught by the Inmate Population)
By Anthony Gangi
Published: 08/03/2015

Coandinmate At this point, we should be familiar with the phrase "Downing a Duck" or "The Anatomy of a Setup." The above mentioned phrases relate to the progressive steps used by the inmate to create the leverage needed that will compromise staff. The end game by the inmate, which takes time, is to manipulate the staff member with the leverage that was gained. This process is taught in all correctional academies and can be considered Corrections 101.

But, have we ever ask ourselves, why does this work? Besides the overt threat by the inmate to tell on the staff member, what else is at play here? It is time to dive into the "Anatomy of a Setup" and the "Downing of a Duck."

There are a few things we have in play here that relate to the human element. First, is the need for us to be consistent with who we are and how others view us. This is a subtle, yet powerful, effect that this setup process employs. It is human nature for people to want to be seen as consistent. By being consistent, an individual can be seen by others as reliable and dependable.

How does this come into play with the setup? Well, as the inmate progressively moves up (minimal compliance) in accordance with the request that the staff member has granted, consistency becomes a way for the staff member to protect themselves from admitting they have done anything wrong. If, at any point, they break away from that consistency, the staff member will have to look at their past actions and find fault. This will mean, as they look backwards, that they have the chance of discovering that the line of professionalism has been crossed numerous of times. So, in self defense, they remain consistent in order to rid themselves of wrong doings and fault.

On another note, the process that is used by the manipulative inmate employs small and subtle steps. This is the key element to why this process has been so successful. As the process is played out by the manipulative inmate, the steps are so small and subtle that each request granted by the soon to be compromised staff member is only being compared to the step before. This means, if the first request is granted, the second request doesn’t seem so bad, when being compared to the first request. Moving forward, when the second request gets granted, now, the third request doesn't seem so bad when compared to the second. The problem here is that instead of the staff member looking at step one, upon each request, they look at the step prior. Being that each request is so small and subtle, it becomes hard to find fault if the request prior was granted. So, instead of the staff member looking all the way down and seeing how far they have traveled, they look at the current step they are on and compare it with the prior step that they have already taken, and if they find fault with the current step that they are on, then there must have been fault with the step that was just taken moments before.

So now, the staff member is at, what Social Psychologists call,a cognitive dissonance. Which simply means, their actions are counter to their beliefs? Therefore, a tension is formed that can only lessen by making their beliefs go in alignment with their actions. So, the compromised staff member will now justify their actions by remaining consistent and defending their position.

What can we do when we see that a staff member may be falling victim to the setup, or might be overly involved with an inmate? This is a tough question to answer. If we accuse the staff member of being to close, they will become defensive, deny wrong doing and remain consistent with what they have been doing. This is dangerous because this will reinforce the connection between the compromised staff and the inmate. If the staff member was to listen to you and acknowledge what you have said, then they will have to admit to themselves that they have done something wrong and try to identify when the wrong initially occurred. For them, it is easier to protect themselves from admitting they did wrong (wrong = consequence), as opposed to admitting fault and questioning their many actions that led them to this point.

The only thing we can do in this situation is report it. It is better to be wrong and report, then be right and don't. In closing, when a staff member gets setup and they are finally caught, all their co-workers should be in shock because, if they are not, then they knew something and failed to act.

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 Spreaker.com. For more information regarding the show or other publications by Anthony, you can contact him at gangianthony@yahoo.com


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