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Beating the Rap
February 1, 2007 6:40 PM   Subscribe

The Reid Technique In Homicide, David Simon writes of the homicide detective: "He becomes a salesman, a huckster as thieving and silver-tongued as any man who ever moved used cars or aluminum siding---more so, in fact, when you consider that he's selling long prison terms to customers who have no genuine need for the product." But how does that detective do it? How can someone get you to willingly confess to something you did--or didn't--do? The Reid Technique. Developed by John Reid, (who kindly shares with us the tricks detectives use) the technique lets an interviewer look at every aspect of a suspect's behavior, sometimes giving them enough rope to hang themselves. Forewarned, however, is forearmed. Can you beat the rap if you know what's facing you, once you get in the box? (Hint: Watch your eyeballs!)
posted by John of Michigan (65 comments total) 58 users marked this as a favorite

 
nice.
posted by horsemuth at 6:51 PM on February 1, 2007


What is most chilling is that the entire process is predicated on the subject being guilty. There is literally no accommodation for a subject who is innocent. Look at the nine steps and imagine what it would be like to be an innocent recipient of the technique.

Also: I find it increasingly disturbing that cops are allowed to lie during an interview, since lying by the subject of the interview may (at the very least) be construed as criminal obstruction.
posted by unSane at 6:53 PM on February 1, 2007


Just don't talk to them until you talk to a lawyer first? Seems pretty straight forward to me.
posted by delmoi at 6:54 PM on February 1, 2007


What I meant to say, before prematurely hitting the "post" button was ... nice post. interesting and informative.
posted by horsemuth at 6:59 PM on February 1, 2007


Just don't talk to them until you talk to a lawyer first?

no kidding
posted by pyramid termite at 7:00 PM on February 1, 2007


I've found that the last article about eye movement is startlingly true. People generally glance to their right when they're lying, and most people don't realize this is a total tell, let alone realize that someone might be watching for it.
posted by mullingitover at 7:05 PM on February 1, 2007


...also known as Dick Wolf's bread and butter.
posted by Rhomboid at 7:08 PM on February 1, 2007


So why did you kill that girl?
posted by Smedleyman at 7:14 PM on February 1, 2007


I would so be busted as a liar for the eye movement thing. I'm deaf in my right ear and my entire body is usually turned to the right so my left ear is in a better position to hear what's in front of me. Since I'm turned to the right anyway and I don't like eye contact, I'm going to look to the right.

I just have to hope I never get arrested, I suppose.
posted by winna at 7:29 PM on February 1, 2007


Great post!

I'm reading Homicide right now. It's an incredible book -- really, truly incredible. The section quoted above is part of a great chapter about how very, very stupid it is to talk to the police when you are guilty, and how they almost always talk anyway.

For everyone who is worried about being framed up through all this, there's one thing that Homicide makes clear -- almost all murders are solved because the detectives talk the killer into confessing. So, like, um, don't confess and you'll be cool. The whole "false confession" thing is so incredibly overblown compared to the number of murders thatget put down because of these guys.
posted by Bookhouse at 7:36 PM on February 1, 2007


Step 6 - The suspect will become quieter and listen. Move the theme discussion towards offering alternatives. If the suspect cries at this point, infer guilt.

Geez, I'd be crying at step one. I'm a wimp crybaby.
posted by Listener at 7:43 PM on February 1, 2007


Just don't talk to them until you talk to a lawyer first?

no kidding
posted by pyramid termite at 9:00 PM CST on February 1


Add me to the list. I can't imagine how mentally deficient someone would have to be to volunteer "look here copper, I had to off him, see, he was muscling in on my action in Toledo" instead of "I want a lawyer".

False confessions are something I truly, truly do not understand. I think it is basically Hollywood. I mean, a bright light and a guy in a $99 suit yelling at me for 2 hours is supposed to make me suddenly decide that I didn't see an intruder kill my wife but I actually did it instead?

Someone would have to be suffering from some sort of mental retardation to "accidentally" give a false confession. (There could be lots of reasons to give a false confession on purpose).

Cop: "Did you kill your wife?"
Suspect:"No! I'd never do such a thing!"
Cop: *slams both hands hard on table* "DID YOU KILL YOUR WIFE!"
Suspect: "YES! YES! I killed her with my bare hands, strangling her last breath out of her while I listened to Evanescence on my iPod!"

Ridiculous.

Perhaps I'm underestimating the mighty weight of a guilty conscious, but it has to be more than that.
posted by Ynoxas at 7:46 PM on February 1, 2007


It would never work on me.

All right. Fuck it. I killed them all.

Oh, shit. Why the hell did I just say that?
posted by Astro Zombie at 7:52 PM on February 1, 2007 [3 favorites]


OK! I'll talk! In third grade, I cheated on my history exam. In fourth grade, I stole my uncle Max's toupee and I glued it on my face when I was Moses in my Hebrew School play. In fifth grade, I knocked my sister Edie down the stairs and I blamed it on the dog... When my mom sent me to the summer camp for fat kids and then they served lunch I got nuts and I pigged out and they kicked me out... But the worst thing I ever done - I mixed a pot of fake puke at home and then I went to this movie theater, hid the puke in my jacket, climbed up to the balcony and then, t-t-then, I made a noise like this: hua-hua-hua-huaaaaaaa - and then I dumped it over the side, all over the people in the audience. And then, this was horrible, all the people started getting sick and throwing up all over each other. I never felt so bad in my entire life.
posted by dirigibleman at 8:01 PM on February 1, 2007 [12 favorites]


I never felt so bad in my entire life.

not as bad as you're going to feel ... i took videos of ALL of it and i'm sending it to youtube right NOW
posted by pyramid termite at 8:03 PM on February 1, 2007


The eye thing works. I take depositions and cross examine witnesses. But in most cases, you pretty much already know what happened and how people are going to respond. Just find the spot where the facts make them look very bad and hammer it.
posted by Ironmouth at 8:03 PM on February 1, 2007


of course, the eye thing assumes that all brains are morphologically identical.
posted by wumpus at 8:09 PM on February 1, 2007


on false confessions, and one prominent example.
posted by serazin at 8:13 PM on February 1, 2007


Goonies! Nice, dirigibleman. :)
posted by figment of my conation at 8:31 PM on February 1, 2007


Suspect: "YES! YES! I killed her with my bare hands, strangling her last breath out of her while I listened to Evanescence on my iPod!"

I think the real crime here is the suspect's record collection.
posted by Mikey-San at 8:43 PM on February 1, 2007


Add me to the list. I can't imagine how mentally deficient someone would have to be to volunteer "look here copper, I had to off him, see, he was muscling in on my action in Toledo" instead of "I want a lawyer".

That’s not what’s initially being volunteered.

You want to look cooperative. The cop is still being a good guy, trying to give you and out or so it seems. So you offer up benign stuff and hope to put him off your trail. You know (or think you know) that demanding to see a lawyer right away is tantamount to admitting you did it, so you put that off, resolving to play that card if the questioning gets dangerous, but when it does, you’re not prepared, the cop catches you off guard with knowledge (guesses?) he shouldn’t have, and you crumble like a cookie made with too little lard.

The most professional “suspect” I ever saw was pulled -- through the window -- from the car he had just stolen. He was 12. He just sat there, unimpressed, during questioning, saying “I want to see my lawyer.” Tyke had a huge rap sheet.
posted by dreamsign at 8:52 PM on February 1, 2007


Sounds like the interrogations in "Law and Order: Criminal Intent." Nice to see it in a formalized fashion, although it may make the show less interesting.
posted by bhouston at 8:59 PM on February 1, 2007


dreamsign:

That's funny. To hear public defenders tell it, juveniles almost always fold like a cheap suit when questioned. The usual routine goes something like:

School Police Officer: Okay, show me the drugs, kid.

Kid: *sighs* *pulls drugs from pocket*

Which always made me wonder how kids (especially ones in high crime areas) didn't manage to pick up the whole 'I want to speak to my lawyer' bit from tv, older kids, etc. I guess I have a data point now for how long it takes for that particular lesson to sink in.
posted by jedicus at 9:06 PM on February 1, 2007


The total absence of ways to infer innocence from Reid's methods show him for what he is--the spiritual decendant of Cotton Mather and his witchcraft trials. He has no sense of investigating to find truth. All he can find is guilt. And since that is all he can find, that is what he will find.
posted by hexatron at 9:09 PM on February 1, 2007 [2 favorites]




. . . and I see serazin beat me to it.

Guilty of skimming. Take me in.
posted by landis at 9:14 PM on February 1, 2007


A fascinating example, possibly influenced by Reid, happened in a brutal, bloody local triple homicide this month:

On Jan. 16, Koepp agreed to an interview with Rock County sheriff's detectives.

But after he missed the appointment, Koepp, crying and apparently drunk, called a detective and said: "I didn't do it. … If I come forward, I'm going to lose my wife. … "I know you're going to arrest me. … I'm going to hang up before you trace this call," Koepp said, according to affidavits written to secure search warrants for his home, car and person. During a second call to the investigator, Koepp said: "I didn't do anything. I didn't f---g kill anyone. … I was stupid. I was stupid. I did a dumb f---g thing."

The same day, a female detective was in Koepp's home interviewing his wife, Nancy, when Koepp called. The detective asked Nancy if she wanted her to talk to her husband. Though the female detective identified herself, "it was obvious he thought I was his wife," the detective wrote. "He kept saying, 'I'm sorry. I'm so sorry," according to the affidavits.

Koepp hung up, called back, and the detective again tried to identify herself. Apparently still thinking he was talking to his wife, Koepp kept saying: "I love you. I'm so sorry. It only happened once, and I know I f--d you over," according to the affidavits.


One of the things you instantly notice about this is that the suspect is offering up multiple contradictory statements. This is probably evidence of the Reid-identified rationalization mechanism.

Someone would have to be suffering from some sort of mental retardation to "accidentally" give a false confession.

There are many possible explanations short of being dumb. One is that you believe a false confession is somehow the way to exonerate yourself (the producers of NYPD Blue long favored this one). You may believe that you are implicating someone else, or that your confession makes you look cooperative. Let's say you are truly confessing to a crime which you have no part in. You may believe that a false confession that doesn't match the other evidence can't be used. Most likely you are worn down by continuous, repeated interrogation, sometimes involving withholding drinks or cigarettes or bathroom breaks, and you lose the mental capacity to deny what you know isn't true. You may have developed a good-cop style Stockholm syndrome with your captors and believe that it's all a game and they wouldn't do this to you. And so forth.

In extreme cases, though, it's been shown that suspects can be made to believe they committed a crime, even if physical evidence later proves it was impossible.
posted by dhartung at 9:16 PM on February 1, 2007


I have to second (or third) the recommendation of Homicide. Fantastic read, especially if you are interested in this sort of thing, or murder investigations in general.

And The Wire, of course.
posted by dhammond at 9:19 PM on February 1, 2007


Great post.
posted by empath at 9:25 PM on February 1, 2007


Great post! Homicide is one of my favorite books and led to me to the great television series based on it, HLOTS. If you haven't checked out either I can't possibly recommend them enough...

I know I wouldn't want to be in the box...especially with Bayliss and Pembleton...
posted by rfbjames at 9:29 PM on February 1, 2007


sometimes involving withholding drinks or cigarettes or bathroom breaks

In Canada, that's coercion and will get that confession tossed. Is that kind of thing allowed in the U.S. or is it really just movie-fare? I don't recall all the factors when I researched this a couple of years ago, but I was amazed at how many things could be deemed coercion in an interrogation. And, of course, with the way our Charter has been interpreted, multiple, multiple requirements to remind the suspect that he/she can speak to a lawyer. (for example, you're questioning the suspect for theft and remind him of this right; then he lets something slip that leads you to believe that he may be guilty of something more serious, like robbery -- you must remind him again)
posted by dreamsign at 10:05 PM on February 1, 2007


the Innocence Project in New York found that out of 123 people who have been exonerated by DNA evidence, nearly 27 percent had falsely confessed to the crime.

There are around 16,000 murders in the US each year. A good chunk of them get solved in this manner. You're pointing to 30-odd people. I say "overblown."
posted by Bookhouse at 11:45 PM on February 1, 2007


Er, Bookhouse, that's a statistical sample. It's 30 out of 123. Unless you believe that people who are later exonerated by DNA evidence are especially likely to have made false confessions PRIOR to exoneration, that's more than 4,000 out of 16,000 people a year.
posted by Richard Daly at 12:08 AM on February 2, 2007


Actually, now that I think about that, I'm wrong.
posted by Richard Daly at 12:10 AM on February 2, 2007


If we assume the false arrest rate is 1 in 100, it's 43 people a year. If we assume it's 1 in 10, it's 430 people a year. If all arrests were wrong, it'd be 4,300 false confessions a year.

A more interesting statistic would be to know what percent of people arrested confess. If the number is anywhere around 27%, then confessions acquired by this tactic have excessive value with a jury, who are almost certain to convict with a confession.
posted by Richard Daly at 12:17 AM on February 2, 2007


There are around 16,000 murders in the US each year. A good chunk of them get solved in this manner. You're pointing to 30-odd people. I say "overblown."

So, we've given up on that whole "innocent until proven guilty", "better 100 guilty men go free than one innocent man go to prison" thing, now. I mean, they're all just collateral damage. It's a war on crime, and in a war, you gotta break some eggs. Remember that when you're the broken egg, the collateral damage. You're just sacrificing for a better society. Don't complain. It's "justice."
posted by dirigibleman at 12:45 AM on February 2, 2007


Richard Daly, your name in a thread about false homicide confessions is eponysterical.
posted by nonreflectiveobject at 1:05 AM on February 2, 2007


dirigibleman, I'm as distrustful of police interrogation as any left thinking ACLU member, but if the numbers were really 30 out of 16,000, police interrogation techniques would be very low on the list of things that need to be fixed.

The statistic I just found is that somewhere around 50% of suspects confess. Lets assume that, on average 10 out of 1,000 suspects tried is innocent. Of those 10, 2.5 can be expected to confess, and of those 1,000, 500 will. So a confession seems to make it roughly half as likely that you're innocent. When you consider that a confession is almost certainly a conviction, Juries do seem to value them more strongly than their evidentiary value. This does seem like a problem.
posted by Richard Daly at 1:16 AM on February 2, 2007


They Mayor spells his name wrong, I do believe.
posted by Richard Daly at 1:17 AM on February 2, 2007


You may believe that you are implicating someone else, or that your confession makes you look cooperative.

That's actually a very common police tactic--essentially threatening the accused with an abstract notion that their lack of cooperation will somehow hurt them.

For instance, "Look, if you don't give me permission to search your car, I'm going to call for backup to bring drug dogs. If those dogs detect drugs, I'm going to arrest you and you will go to jail. You don't want to go to jail, do you?"

The implication is that by cooperating in the first place, you'll somehow get a more lenient sentence than if you kept denying the whole way through. "Make this easy for me, and I'll do my best to make this easier for you. Make this difficult for me, and I'm going to do everything I can to make sure they throw the book at you."

Of course, once you confess / allow for an unreasonable search / etc. and get caught, all of a sudden the nice-guy routine is dropped, you're handcuffed and taken away like any other criminal. There's no leniency for being cooperative with the police. You're just helping them incarcerate you.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 2:02 AM on February 2, 2007


See also the ACLU's: Busted: The Citizen's Guide to Surviving Police Encounters (youtube).
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 2:04 AM on February 2, 2007


If the subject tells the truth he will break gaze to the left.

I take it fom above comments that they mean the interrogator's left, but it would have been nice of the writer to make this absolutely clear.
posted by IndigoJones at 5:31 AM on February 2, 2007


And, of course, with the way our Charter has been interpreted, multiple, multiple requirements to remind the suspect that he/she can speak to a lawyer. (for example, you're questioning the suspect for theft and remind him of this right; then he lets something slip that leads you to believe that he may be guilty of something more serious, like robbery -- you must remind him again)

It's interesting that it seems Canada, long the land of "peace, order and good government" may be becoming more libertarian the the USA. Especially in the wake of 9/11. Canadian judges - all of them unelected - can be real sticklers for the rights of the accused.
posted by crowman at 7:36 AM on February 2, 2007


The statistic I just found is that somewhere around 50% of suspects confess. Lets assume that, on average 10 out of 1,000 suspects tried is innocent. Of those 10, 2.5 can be expected to confess, and of those 1,000, 500 will. So a confession seems to make it roughly half as likely that you're innocent. When you consider that a confession is almost certainly a conviction, Juries do seem to value them more strongly than their evidentiary value. This does seem like a problem.

I'm sorry, but i don't buy it -- I don't buy the 30 people (which is anecdotal, not statisics, IMO) false confessions being a valid sample for the entire judicial system, and the assumption you're making about the number of false confessions could be way off base -- there's literally no way of telling.

And I can't find it right now, but I've read in the past that in the realm of serious felonies, eighty percent of all convictions are gotten through confessions. Although, as i can't find it now, I could be wrong.

I'm very pro-civil liberties, but not to the point where I just don't think that people should be convicted for murder. Do you know how hard it is to convict someone of murder without a confession? People who watch a lot of CSI could be forgiven for thinking it's easy, but it's nearly impossible, especially in inner cities (the famous Bronx jury syndrome) where most murders take place. Given that in your standard drug murder there will be no solid witnesses, no physical evidence worth a damn and a jury that (in some cases rightfully) mistrusts the police, you need a confession.

And as far as civil rights go, remember -- "I want a lawyer" and this game is over. So, civil rights aplenty. These tactics are purely for people stupid enough to talk to the police after realizing that they are a suspect in a felony. Fuck looking guilty because you want a lawyer. As I've said somewhere else, its way better to look guilty at the mall than look innocent in jail.
posted by Bookhouse at 9:55 AM on February 2, 2007


These tactics are purely for people stupid enough to talk to the police after realizing that they are a suspect in a felony.

So, purely for most Americans who become suspects, then? Like Civil_Disobedient said, cops lie for a living. They do it every day, they're very good at it, and they know exactly how to fish you in. Unless you are 100% prepared not to cooperate and to make NO statements without a lawyer present (and, of course, this assumes you can afford a lawyer, or afford to wait until the state assigns you one), you will be taken in by this. If you really think it's "I want a lawyer and this game is over", you're mistaken -- that's just the beginning of the game, because the cops have many tricks to use to try to get you talking again. Not only do you have to say you want your lawyer, you have to say it again and again, and not say anything else, all while someone is badgering you with lies and leading questions. It's not always easy.

In short: cops have training and practice on their side, but Americans generally don't train or practice for being arrested. Things like the ACLU bustcard [PDF] or NORML's educational comics can help, but even then, it really is difficult to do it right when there's somebody in a uniform screaming at you.
posted by vorfeed at 11:07 AM on February 2, 2007


Well, like in most polarized arguments, we're all beginning to repeat each other and ourselves here, but having said that, let me point out what someone has already said. There is a serious problem with a system where anyone is falsely convicted of a crime, particularly when they can be executed for that crime. I think most people would agree if they were in the position of being falsely convicted. Wouldnt' you? Arguing that suspects should just call a lawyer is naive. Police use these manipulative tactics most effectively on people who do not know there legal rights. Poor people, young people, and other people who are members of groups that have historically experienced oppression (namely black and brown people) are disproportionately impacted by manipulative police tactics.

I linked to the Central Park jogger case because it is a perfect (and perfectly horrible) example of how young, poor, men of color made choices that seem incomprehensible to most priveledged people: why would anyone confess to a horrible crime they did not commit?

Well, for one thing when you are underaged, terrified, and being told by an authority figure that your best choice is to confess, you might not think you have any other choices. And if you are convinced that you're going to prison no matter what you say (and when you look at imprisonment rates for black men in this country, you can undestand why a 15 or 16 year old working class black young man might think this), you're going to want to take the action which you believe will give you the shortest prison time.

Basically, cops are capitalizing on misunderstanding of the legal system, as well as on accurate understandings about the differences in conviction rates for black people and poor people vs. white people and wealthy people.

This is a problem because it further perpetuates a racist and unfair sytem. Oh ya, and it's a problem when anyone spends their life in prison, or is actually executed, for something they didn't do. WOuldn't you agree with that if it was your mother who was unfairly on death row?
posted by serazin at 11:31 AM on February 2, 2007


Also, this whole discussion is predicated on the assumption that catching and convicting perpetrators of murder (or other crimes) is actually an effective way to reduce murder rates. Show me the scientific research that demonstrates that prison is an effective strategy for reducing crime.

Some resources on prison abolition and an interesting conversation on the subject.
posted by serazin at 11:42 AM on February 2, 2007


There is a serious problem with a system where anyone is falsely convicted of a crime

I guess my question is, what system are you suggesting we replace it with? Right now we have a system where the police have to, in most places, get the suspect to sign a form explaining that they have a right to an lawyer. To take it to the extreme, we could set up a system where all suspects are given lawyers, without choice, right away. And then you could watch the conviction rate plummet. And watch a ton of murderers go free.

As far as all the hypotheticals about my mom on death row -- well, what if your mother was murdered by someone who walked on an earlier murder charge? That's far more likely with the system we have now, much less the ones you seem to be proposing.

(But talkin' bout your momma is bad laws -- if your momma was squashed to death by a vending machine, you might want to outlaw them, but that doesn't make it a good idea).

(as far as the death penalty goes -- well, I pretty much agree with you, most days. But that is a different matter)
posted by Bookhouse at 11:43 AM on February 2, 2007


Show me the scientific research that demonstrates that prison is an effective strategy for reducing crime.

Look, I'm not going to defend prison terms for drug offenses, and the "gladiator school" aspect of prisons is horrible (and don't get me started on the idea of privately run prisons). But there is nothing scientific about these prison abolition studies, unless by scientific you mean "purely hypothetical." While prison abolitionists can "imagine" that there would be less transgression of community standards if you didn't throw murderers in jail, the studies they use for proof tend to be laughable (there's a particularly bad one in Slate this week).

There's plenty of information out there about what happens when killers are allowed to kill without recourse. Pick up a history book.
posted by Bookhouse at 11:56 AM on February 2, 2007


I just wanted to point out to the people who are worried about the eye-break thing -- the last link in the post makes it clear the the investigator should first establish the suspect's normal direction of breaking gaze when telling the truth. The vast majority of people follow the same pattern of how their eyes move when they're lying, but the investigators are told to establish a baseline pattern for the specific individual before drawing any conclusions. (I'm not commenting on whether they're any good at this, just that the recommendations are not as simplistic as some here have made them out to be.)
posted by vytae at 12:04 PM on February 2, 2007


Also, this whole discussion is predicated on the assumption that catching and convicting perpetrators of murder (or other crimes) is actually an effective way to reduce murder rates.

it's a reasonably effective way of reducing blood feuds ... see various norse sagas for details ... they didn't have prisons ... they either had the murderer pay a blood price ... or went after him

then, of course, his relatives would go after them ... and so on and so forth

whether you're aware of it or not, that's the alternative you're offering
posted by pyramid termite at 12:05 PM on February 2, 2007


If I'm ever in The Box, my strategy is to just play the echo game.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 12:05 PM on February 2, 2007


Actually, I didn't offer an alternative. I just said that there isn't any good science demonstratating that prisons are effective at reducing crime. Can you find some? Because I can't.

As for which is more likely - my mother on death row or my mother being a vicitim of a crime - that all depends on demographics. people on death row are there disproportionately by class and by who they were convicted of killing. Those convicted of killing white people are much more likely to be on death row than those convicted of killing anyone else.
posted by serazin at 12:18 PM on February 2, 2007


I just said that there isn't any good science demonstratating that prisons are effective at reducing crime.

people in locked rooms have trouble getting out to commit crimes ... do you really need a scientist to tell you that?
posted by pyramid termite at 12:33 PM on February 2, 2007


I just said that there isn't any good science demonstratating that prisons are effective at reducing crime. Can you find some? Because I can't.

You're right -- I can't find a study which employs a control group of murderers who are allowed to go on about their business after killing. Huh.

Oh, and I'm looking for a study that proves that leaving babies up on top of a mountain is actually worse than leaving them with their parents. Oh, wait, you don't have one?

As for which is more likely - my mother on death row or my mother being a vicitim of a crime - that all depends on demographics.


Oh, okay. You're just fucking with us now, right? You can't possibly believe that.
posted by Bookhouse at 12:46 PM on February 2, 2007


people in locked rooms have trouble getting out to commit crimes ... do you really need a scientist to tell you that?

Yes, but under our current system we let people out of the locked room after a certain time... and, oddly enough, we have a major crime problem with people who've been in the locked room before. Unless you believe that 2/3 of all those arrested are naturally serial criminals, a 2/3 rearrest rate ought to indicate that something is seriously wrong with the idea that prison prevents crime. It demonstrably does not prevent even the person under punishment from committing crimes again, so how can we say it prevents crime in any case?

IMHO, prison can prevent crime, but not if we insist on locking people up for short periods of time and then stripping them of their rights when they leave. Dangerous criminals should be locked up for a long time, if not forever, and the prisons should be carefully patrolled to prevent violence. Non-violent criminals should be locked up separately, if at all. In both cases, the emphasis should be on rehabilitation and re-education rather than punishment. And in any case, disenfranchising former prisoners (for instance, removing their right to vote or bear arms, or allowing employers to discriminate against them) is nothing but a recipe for recidivism. If someone who has spent the last 5 years in the company of professional criminals can't get a legitimate job, what do you expect him to do for a living? Panhandling?
posted by vorfeed at 12:55 PM on February 2, 2007


Unless you believe that 2/3 of all those arrested are naturally serial criminals,

as opposed to man made ones? ... how does one use the concept of "natural" in reference to how people act in a civilization ... (you can't even have the concept of "criminal" without a civilization, can you?)

basically, they ARE serial criminals, by definition

Non-violent criminals should be locked up separately, if at all.

true ... and in many respects our problem with criminals is with what we've chosen to call criminal

i have a different view on serial shoplifters and such than i do with serial violent criminals ... we really need to figure out a better way to deal with non-violent offenders

the violent ones? ... no sympathy there
posted by pyramid termite at 1:04 PM on February 2, 2007


Good points, Vorfeed. Interestingly, the recidivism rate for murder is the lowest of any major crime -- less than two percent, I think.
posted by Bookhouse at 1:10 PM on February 2, 2007


Ynoxas: False confessions are something I truly, truly do not understand.

Then you don't have much imagination.
posted by lodurr at 1:24 PM on February 2, 2007


Matlock uses the Reid Technique. That about sums it up.
posted by loquacious at 1:32 PM on February 2, 2007


... cops lie for a living ...

Today on Boing-Boing -- not about cops, but about lieing for a living:
Simon Lovell's "How to Cheat at Everything: A Con Man Reveals the Secrets of the Esoteric Trade of Cheating, Scams and Hustles," is a veritable encyclopedia of cons, scams, tricks and rip-offs. [The section on sleight of hand] bogged down a little for me -- unlike, say, The Big Con, which tries to give a representative sample of the world's con-games, Lovell is bent on detailing all of them. But this is more than made up for by the charming, breezy anaecdotes about rip-off bar-bets, boiler-room operations, and so on. I picked this up as reference for stories -- con-jobs are great fiction fodder -- but found myself absorbing its message in pro-active self-defense. Reading this thing cover-to-cover can leave you feeling pretty damned paranoid.

Link
As I find myself saying ad nauseum, anybody can be conned. The less vulnerable you think you are, the more vulnerable you are.

As for what the cop's interest is in conning you -- ever heard of "closing a case"? Ever read any old Wambaugh novels?

To be sure, most cops who con suspects probably think they're right. But they can be conned, too -- they can con themselves, for instance, into believing their own rationalizations.
posted by lodurr at 1:37 PM on February 2, 2007 [2 favorites]


as opposed to man made ones? ... how does one use the concept of "natural" in reference to how people act in a civilization ... (you can't even have the concept of "criminal" without a civilization, can you?)

Maybe I should have said, "are already serial criminals" rather than "naturally", but the point stands. Unless 2/3 of all criminals are committing crimes again and again, even before they first get sent to jail, why is it that 2/3 of them go on to do so once they're out of prison? And even if 100% of criminals are already serial offenders when they're sent to jail, it seems to me that getting barely 1/3 of them to stop (and that only for the next three years) is not exactly a ringing endorsement of the crime-stopping powers of the prison industry.

But then, this entire argument is predicated on the assumption that the goal of the American prison system is to prevent crime. I think it's pretty clear at this point that this assumption is false -- money is the goal of the prison system. This is why the justice system tends to be far more interested in increasing arrest numbers than in lowering crime stats, and it's also why the entire system is arranged in a manner that generates recidivism rather than preventing it.

Your last point ("you can't even have the concept of "criminal" without a civilization, can you?") is a very important one, because it points out that American-style crime and punishment is NOT necessarily natural, or inevitable, or "the way of the world", or any such thing. I have been to a few countries that have very low crime rates compared to ours, and as far as I can tell, the common thread between them is the idea that prison-level crimes should largely be limited to transgressions that most citizens cannot easily bring themselves to. In low-crime countries like Japan and Finland, prison-level crimes are emphatically not ordinary events in the lives of most citizens. In contrast, if we could perfectly enforce every aspect of the law, the average American might be a "prison criminal" two or three times over, all without ever hurting anyone else. And we wonder why we can't stop crime...
posted by vorfeed at 2:02 PM on February 2, 2007 [2 favorites]


I'd take the Reid Technique over the Louima Method any day.
posted by breezeway at 4:09 PM on February 2, 2007


Now how the hell am I supposed to watch my own eyeballs?
posted by Astro Zombie at 4:21 PM on February 2, 2007


Dude, you're a zombie. Pluck one out and look at it.
posted by bigbigdog at 7:02 PM on February 2, 2007 [3 favorites]


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