Monday, September 12, 2011

Psychology, Field Study - Psychology of Criminals in Jail

Psychology, Field Study
Psychology of Criminals in Jail
May 2011

    I think I started reading psychology in the year 2000 when I was about 15 years old. Psychology helped me a lot in understanding motives and ways of thinking of others, so that was a great help to me in my political activism. Also, a book I read before, about psychology of militarists for Sigmund Freud,, helped me dealing with militarists in my struggle for peace and non-violence. My activism led me to jail, so I thought to use the wasted time here in making a field study doing some psychological analysis for criminals jailed with me. I’ll try to summarize my major notices, categorize them, even knowing that these information could have been written before by researchers on criminology and psychology, but I believe that adding a new field-study from a prison in Egypt, made by a prisoner could be of a positive value.
* Sample of study
- About 30 prisoners (drug dealers, thugs, robbers, killers)
        All came by military trials

1- Denial
* Denial was the greatest psychopath. I saw here criminals are living in a parallel world, different from reality.
* Nearly, every prisoner believes that he is innocent, everyone denies his crime. For moments, I felt that I’m the only one made things against the law. Some people claim that they didn’t commit their crime, but police faked the case to harm them. Others don’t see anything wrong with their crimes; just as the drug dealer who says that there is nothing wrong in selling narcotics (even he knows that it causes harm). Also, the killer who sees that it was a normal reaction from him to kill the person who insulted him or tried to get close to one of his females.
* One of the prisoners usually says “I believe that God would stand with me, because I didn’t harm anybody ever in my life”... This man killed, injured, hostaged, was jailed in lots of countries for more than 25 years and was active in trading drugs in more than 5 countries, in Europe and Middle East!
* As being with a group came by military trials in a very exceptional time, this made us very interested to follow the political news. Everyone was hoping that a political change could happen, leading to canceling military trials and freeing them. They can’t accept the idea that they harmed innocent people and deserve to be punished and rehabilitated in jail to be good citizens... But, look at it from another view, I, myself, don’t believe that I’m guilty, I don’t believe that I made anything wrong and I intend to continue my activism when I be released!

2- Schizophrenia
* Denial leads to having two identities; real one outside the prison and the other identity is the innocent one inside the jail and in front of investigators.
* I noticed also that most of criminals have two or three names. It’s common in Egypt to have two names (without a noticeable cause for that), but criminals have lots of names for lots of purposes. They use this variety to run from investigations and trials (as an accusation to Mr. A doesn’t lead to accusing Mr. B, when the investigator doesn’t know that Mr. A is Mr. B). Having two names helps them to hide their crimes from their families or any other people they don’t want them to know about their crimes. Also, having two names helps them escape from police officers and secret service.
* The direct result of having two names is having two identities (personalities) and you can be surprised at any second of changing in manners of the man in front of you. He just switches between both of them or switch on and off the other identity he doesn’t want to show in jail.
* Practically, when you deal with them, you find some of them faithful, religious, courageous, slightly enlightened... etc. But, all of that can change in seconds to see a selfish bloody person, full of hatred.
* Prisoners are also pretending all the time; pretending being rich is a common thing here. Lots of prisoners here pretend to be millionaires, they act as if they are going to buy you and your family. By time, you discover that they are poor people. Even if you didn’t get information proving they aren’t rich as they claim, their way dealing with money and how they fight for small and cheap things, make you believe that those people can’t have the amount of money they claim.

3- Lying
* Prisoners lie just for lying. One of them says a piece of a poet every day (the same piece); a part of it says, “tell me about prisoners and their lies; tell me about lies which run in their views”... Also, this man claims that he never lies, even though he lies every second!
* Prisoners don’t lie for a logical cause, they are just used to giving wrong answers as a normal reflex. They also feel power in deceiving others. They keep telling opposite (contradicting) stories about their lives. They tell false names for their sons. They could even claim of being sons of families, other than their true families.
* Dealing with prisoners taught me that you should believe that he is lying until he proves the opposite. You can’t deal with them as if they are telling they truth.

4- Ego
* Prisoners have enlarged egos. I think that the ego is the cause of all crimes. The man who kills another man because of a couple of words, the ego forced him to kill. The same with stealers and rapists. Ego is the mother of all crimes.
* The criminal doesn’t understand the idea of having borders between him and others. He sees it’s normal to interfere in others’ lives, insult them, use them, make fun of them, on the other hand, he can’t accept being treated the same way.
* Criminals also don’t believe in private property. When he sees something he likes, he just goes on and takes it (without a permission from its owner) and he doesn’t see something wrong with this. That’s why stealers don’t see something wrong in taking others’ money.
* Ego of criminals also gives them the impression that they have the right to use others and use them as slaves. When he wants something, he just orders any weak prisoner to do it. You need to have also an enlarged psycho-pathetic ego to make them fear you, and so fear of treating you the same way.

5- Complicated relation with religion
* I think this could be part of the schizophrenic point, but it has notices which should be focused on.
* Criminals have very fantastic opinions. They don’t see that Bin Laden did anything wrong. They don’t respect Jews or Christians in general (even though they respected me, thinking I’m a Christian). They hare non-believers and atheists. They are ready to kill or injure anyone telling them a bad opinion about their religion.
At the same time, they don’t pray nor fast. Their crimes (killing, injuring, stealing) are banned in their religions and they don’t see anything wrong in committing them. They use narcotics everyday, even they believe it’s forbidden by God.
* Criminals also are superstitious. They believe that dreams are messages from God which will come true. They feel good or bad when they hear specific types of birds. They believe in ghosts. They also believe in lots of myths not related to Islam.

6- Self-hatred
* This gets on surface when he is weak. It becomes obvious that he hates his life, his principles, may be even himself.
* When someone emotionally close to him tells him bad news, talk to him hardly, he starts blaming everyone led him to that crime, takes decisions to stop making crimes when he is released. Deep inside, he wishes if he had a different (regular/normal) life. Maybe, the hard time we live here in jail is the cause which makes him hates his crimes.

7- Sex-phobia and homophobia
* I believe it’s normal to be a homosexual when you are forced to live years without seeing a female. But, even if it’s spontaneous and good for them, they are still homophobic. When they know about a gay prisoner, they start insulting and beating him.
* But, this behavior isn’t related only to homosexual behavior, they nearly do the same thing towards whoever they know that he masturbates or owns sexual pictures with him.
* Schizophrenically, they like to talk a lot about their sexual adventures, with stimulant sexual details!

8- Continuous making of troubles
* Life in jail is very boring. Some prisoners will have to spend in prison 20 years or more. Egyptian prisoners have nearly nothing which can help you spend time without being bored. That’s how prisoners discovered a new way to kill time: making troubles.
* One of the prisoners told me, “the prisoner is a son of a bitch, if you gave him a finger, he will take you all, he will step on your head”... He was describing how prisoners deal with each other inside jail.
* The advantage of making troubles is that it kills lots of time and it brings with it lots of positive and negative feelings. They need those feelings while they are isolated by speechless walls.
    That’s why prisoners fight each other every moment, interfere in others’ privacy, deliberately understand every word as an insult to use it to begin a fight... etc.
* Prisoners don’t know how to spend time positively and prison management doesn’t try to teach them how to do that. They don’t like to read newspapers or books. They usually aren’t interested in continuing their study from within jail.
* Long boring time and the inability to use it pushes them to use narcotics continuously to kill time and drugs make them make more troubles, and the cycle goes on.

- Final general notices
        - Being a prisoner myself, made it hard for me to focus more than this. I wish I could make larger and more detailed research.
        - Also, I felt changes in my behavior inside jail. Some changes are good adaptation, others are bad changes, I’ll need to visit a psychiatrist to fix them. What I’m trying to say is that in prison, there is a behavioral state affecting anyone inside and each prisoner is forced to take reaction towards it.
        - Legally, there should be a psychiatrist and a social professional in jail to help prisoners. I don’t know if they exist, but if they do, we are not in contact with them in an way. This way in prison management doesn’t fight crime, but produces new criminals to society.

                        Maikel Nabil Sanad
                        El-Marg prison

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Karen Billings said...
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