Book Review (Posted on 09-12-2012)
My sister wanted to find out, for whatever reason(s) she may have, about why criminals do what they do. If you think about it, you'd realize what causes one to go on a shooting spree at a movie theater, hire a hitman to kill your romantic partner, rape your own daughter kept hidden in an underground cell or wear a t-shirt that says "Humanity Is Overrated." I remember watching Final Report: Columbine
on National Geographic and also recall the 2007 Virginia Tech massacre as well (the creepy thing was I know someone who graduated from VT, although she wasn't affected thankfully), and looking back, I let it all soak in. Even more, I watched another documentary, I believe titled Teen Killers
unveiling teen murderers. Oh, and you can't forget the incident when those 8 teens beat up that one lone, defenseless girl over....a MySpace comment. The media tells us how immoral these folks are and what big disgraces they are to humanity, and how hard they should be punished without ever going into details.
Of course, committing an offense means you'll be punished but the media never goes that far. Thankfully with a book like this, you'll find out why.
Though an aspect in psychology, Criminal Psychology is about what the title is: psychologists defining criminals, their behavior, their motives and also scouring through clues to provide/support evidence to be given during trial. The first chapters are enough to get your feet wet. In addition, you also learn about the authorities—police—and everything they're assigned to do. Sure, it sounds basic and most of us realize policing is a dangerous and stressful job, but author Ray Bull does a great job explaining everything in the criminal justice system. Note that Bull is, and throughout the book, referring to authorities and samples from the UK, though he often does make references to presenting researches from the US (despite the book series is a UK published original).
Chapters such as "Detecting Deception" are one of the few chapters you'll run into where Bull presents that research are still being done and some areas in criminal psychology haven't come to a complete definition and conclusion. However, the material should be enough to give the reader a complete idea as to what the area's purpose is. "Detecting Deception" is a chapter about telling whether a criminal is honest or lying. And because majority of us have read countless online articles and books about sensing lies from someone, Bull states that there is no clear distinction whatsoever. He mentioned that as humans, we have honed the art of deception. How many movies and/or episodes of TV shows portray why being honest about everything has drawbacks as well?
The middle part of the book, you learn some forensics, eyewitnesses and the offenders themselves. Just when you learn about the people working in making our community as stable as possible keeping offenders from ruining the lives of innocents, you learn about those trying to find more evidence, not just items, but the scenes, how it happened, where it happened and what actually happened (Miranda Rights). You also learn about police and criminal psychologists rummaging to decide whether an eyewitness', or an earwitness', explanation of the event s/he witnessed is enough to take the criminal into custody and punishing them with a harsh sentence (though Bull states that earwitnessing is the least effective). The forensics Bull covers is Forensic Linguists. An example, and I never knew about this, was a contestant on the hit game show Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?
in which the contestant would dictate the four possible answers, then whenever he heard an "unsuspecting" cough in the fastest-thinker contestant's row, done by his friends/acquaintances, that would signal him to the correct answer. It wasn't long when the linguists caught and reported them for conspiracy.
The last few chapters talks about imprisonment, what/how prisoners feel being behind bars and prisoner rehab (interesting) and managing sex offenders. According to Bull, there are 8.5+ million people in prison and stated that the US very much puts their population behind bars (that says a lot about our society in this country, and it's not a very positive one). The fact that owning a gun 'for protection' seems to be the norm, yet—again, I didn't even know—owning a gun for that same reason is vastly illegal in the UK. Here in the US, if you don't own a gun 'for protection,' you're putting yourself as risk (sounds a little much now that I think about it).
Life behind bars seems to be what we think it should be: prisoners feel isolated, angry and depressed, and the reality that they have to face and serve their sentence. The explanation on life in prison should remind you of the hit movie Shawshank Redemption
, and, if you read it, a chapter titled "Life Behind Bars" from Tim Donaghy's book
. Because offenders are facing punishment for their crime(s), police staff and criminal psychologists feel that prison should
be an unpleasant experience; the descriptions of the prison environment is enough to picture what Hell is like (or at least that's how I envision Hell). On the other hand, prison affects women more than men, and a study done in 2005 stated that 79% of women prisoners are single mothers. This is reasonable since they're worried about their child(ren) and if they're well treated, well fed and well raised. Another excellent pointer was those serving life sentences—'lifers' as they call them. Some countries say a "life sentence" is only between 10-15 years, while other countries is, well, imprisoned for the rest of their lives. All in all, prisoners feel heavily concerned whether they can re-bond those friendships and connections once released, or those serving life sentences.
If you want some serious thinking, you'll love the rehab of offenders. This is just as debated as the issue of abortion. Do you think an offender deserves a second chance? You think an offender will turn into a just and law-abiding citizen? Will an offender always be an offender? Regardless of what you believe/think, these questions have made me sympathize that one man who served 33 years in prison, only once authorities realized, up until recently, they have caught and punished the wrong guy. What are the odds? How is one able to recapture back those 33 years? I don't know myself, but a huge sympathy and gladness to that man.
Overall, because the topics mentioned are still being researched and studied, I enjoyed the book quite well; I learned a whole lot other than officers mingling in their cramped office space waiting for something to happen. Also, if you think you know everything you knew about the authorities, how criminals are handled and criminals in general, from popular TV series and/or movies, think again: this book covers all
, and I'll bet there are things you probably never knew about. Oh, and the various other authors listed with Bull are criminal psychologists. Get this book if you want to learn the hidden work behind all those (in)famous trials you're forced to witness on TV whenever networks interrupt your favorite shows. You will not be disappointed.
What terrifies me is this: criminal psychologists are guaranteed to keep their jobs and their aspect of research and study because there will be a time when someone from the country's population who will ruin it for everyone else. As sad as that seems, it's always going to happen.
I bought this book for a few reasons:
- Watching documentaries on reports about massacres happening, especially those that happened at school.
- Doing brief reading on forums having searched why people kill.
- Though I'm not friends with him anymore for obvious reasons, he portrays anti-social personalities and is a pathological liar; He has not broken the law but his moods and personalities match that of a serial killer/psychopath (especially since he attended the same college I did)
- Authorities, especially in Las Vegas, constantly pick on me, as if being picked on in school all my life wasn't bad enough; they might as well keep giving random people tickets just to get money, and/or switch on the sirens to avoid traffic and go home faster
However, one of the main reasons is the ones I mentioned above on the review: watching and learning why these folks, especially the kids, commit these massacres, as well as other vicious criminals, and what causes one to do it. Sure, it may be revenge, anger or sheer hatred but I certainly feel there's more to it—possible conspiracy, for example. Even if school mass murderers don't commit suicide over what they did, can we ever forgive them? Can a serial rapist turn into a business-successful worker responsible for saving his company tens of thousands of dollars annually? Doubtful. This may be why few countries require lethal injection—execution of the criminal, which is also another topic of debate. Criminal activity could be prevented but it's difficult because we don't know the criminal's motives, what their plans are and why.
All in all, I learned everything I needed to and I'm happy. Since it has made me that much more proud of the criminal justice team prosecuting the offenders, I still get a bit miffed at the way authorities misuse their power to take down random innocents (spontaneously giving tickets for the sake of money, or parking on red zones "because they can" are perfect examples). Anyhow, the psychological part was also a fun learn as this is the sole reason why I look back at the country's severe massacres and read about the criminal's mind wondering, like everyone else, why the heck they did it and what went through their minds that propelled them to do it (the dudes responsible for the Columbine massacre for example, done as a revenge from being bullied).
Personally, my friction with authority is still skin-burning, but I highly respect the work they do.
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