Working with Emotionally Disturbed Prisoners: Experiences in a Prison Treatment Program for Youthful Offenders

By Eisenman, Russell | Journal of Evolutionary Psychology, March 2003 | Go to article overview

Working with Emotionally Disturbed Prisoners: Experiences in a Prison Treatment Program for Youthful Offenders


Eisenman, Russell, Journal of Evolutionary Psychology


The Prisoners

As Phelan (2002) has pointed out, psychotherapists can, in some instances, receive vicarious traumatization, as a result of the kinds of clients they work with. Others have also discussed the issue of the problem of working with difficult clients, including criminals, prisoners, or others whose behavior is largely resistant to change (Ashford, Sales, & Reid, 2002; Eisenman, 1990, 1991, 2000; Denny, 1994; Hail, 2001; Hall & Pritchard, 1996; Herron, 1999; Hodgins, 2000; Holmes & Holmes, 2002; Huff, 2002; Hunter & Dantzker, 2002; McGauley, 2002; Milner, 2000; Rasmussen, 2002; Stamm, 1995, 1997; Travers, 1995; Truell & Sharp, 2002; Wilson & Forrester, 2002). From an evolutionary psychology standpoint, there may be some advantage for the person who regularly engages in deception, cheating, or crime, as they can achieve desired goals that otherwise might be mined by them, or would require much more work and effort (Buss, 1999; Daly & Wilson, 1988; Mealy, 1995; Rowe, 1995; Wilson, 1995). Thus, criminal or deceptive behavior may be very difficult to change, given that it provides sufficient rewards for the person.

I worked at a very unusual prison. In most prisons, the prisoners receive no therapy. But, I was working at a prison treatment program, designed by the state of California to provide prisoners with therapy services. The prisoners in the treatment program received individual and group psychotherapy from clinical psychologists, social workers, and a psychiatrist. Although all were dedicated therapists, working with prisoners can be quite difficult. Some might think of people working at a state facility as being somehow inferior to others at more prestigious settings. However, the staff was not composed of rejects from other settings: they were, in my opinion, high quality professionals.

The prisoners were juvenile delinquents, through 17 years old, and some young adults 18 to 25 years old. The latter were ones deemed inappropriate for the state's adult prison system. Often this was because the prisoner was too weak or immature to fit in with the adults. Since we bad one of the few treatment programs in the state, our prisoners had to be judged emotionally disturbed to get into the facility. The youngest prisoner in our program during my almost two years there was 14 years old, and the oldest was 28, the latter being an exception to the usual 25-year old limit. He was a weak, partially deaf, probably brain damaged child molester, who could fit into no other program in the state and who had failed parole at least twice. The modal age in our facility was 16 or 18 years old (different at different times: 18 during my first year, 16 during my second).

This was a difficult group to treat successfully. Not only were they criminals, but they were seriously emotionally disturbed, with a full range of mental disorders. About one-third were psychotic. Early on I had heard reports of an 85 per cent recidivism rate for prisoners in the state's three intensive treatment programs (which our treatment program was officially known as), but I tried not to think about that too much.

I wondered, how could I succeed where others had failed? In the end, the low probability of preventing a return to crime was frustrating to me. But, the major source of stress was the way I was treated by the prisoners. These were antisocial, anti-authority youths who had built their lives on manipulating others. They treated me similarly, even though I was often kind to them. To some extent kindness was reciprocated, but usually was misinterpreted as weakness. Never had I been lied to or been the victim of attempted manipulations so often. These prisoners were real pros.

Even worse than the constant dishonesty and manipulations was the undercurrent of hostility. These were angry, aggressive individuals. With few exceptions, their orientation was one of violence for problem solving. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Working with Emotionally Disturbed Prisoners: Experiences in a Prison Treatment Program for Youthful Offenders
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.