Vol. 2, No. 4 , 1996, Page 5


By Stanton E. Samenow, Ph.D.,
Random House, $17.95.

Previous reviews in Crime Times have covered only recently published books. We have included this review because the author so obviously knows the mind of the criminal, and provides a powerful argument that crime is caused by the criminal, not by external sources. The book, published in 1984, is in its tenth printing.

Dr. Samenow has 24 years of experience working as a researcher and clinician in prisons, clinics, and halfway houses, and has served on three presidential task forces on crime and drug issues. He co-authored the three-volume work, The Criminal Personality, and in 1989 published Before It's Too Late.

Using concrete examples from his own experience, Dr. Samenow provides remarkable insight into how "different" thinking leads to criminal and disordered behavior. The book's only shortcoming is that it could not include the large body of research, most of it conducted after this book's printing, about the many physiological causes of criminals' maladaptive thinking and behavior. While Dr. Samenow emphasizes the importance of understanding how the criminal thinks, and how criminals choose to behave differently, the book does not explain why criminals make the choices they do.

Dr. Samenow continues to recommend therapy for criminals, but admits that the results are disappointing. When asked recently by Crime Times whether he is having success in changing the thinking of criminals using a psychological approach, Dr. Samenow responded, "in a minority of cases that occurs."


"How a person behaves is determined largely by how he thinks.
Criminals think differently."

"We must understand how criminals think and realize that they have a fundamentally different view of the world from that of people who are basically responsible. I submit that this basic understanding, if it ever existed, has been lost in the fog of theoretical speculation and political rhetoric often espoused by people who have never even met a criminal."

"Criminals cause crime-not bad neighborhoods, inadequate parents, television, schools, drugs, or unemployment. Crime resides within the minds of human beings and is not caused by social conditions. Once we as a society recognize this simple fact, we shall take measures radically different from the current ones. To be sure, we shall continue to remedy intolerable social conditions for this is worthwhile in and of itself. But we shall not expect criminals to change because of such efforts."

"Rehabilitation as it has been practiced cannot possibly be effective because it is based on a total misconception. To rehabilitate is to restore to a former constructive capacity or condition. There is nothing to which to rehabilitate a criminal. There is no earlier condition of being responsible to which to restore him.... Just as rehabilitation is a misconception, so too is the notion of `reintegrating the criminal into the community.' It is absurd to speak of reintegrating him when he was never integrated in the first place."

"The appeal of psychodynamic psychology is that it seems to offer answers. After the fact, it can explain anything. The human mind desires closure and especially to make sense out of what appears senseless. Unfortunately, it is not so simple. As it has turned out, conventional theories from modern depth psychology are largely irrelevant or misleading in understanding the criminal."

"We cannot afford to cling to our sacred theoretical cow and to familiar but ineffective procedures and programs. If we persist in traveling along well-trodden paths that are littered with failure, who knows how much worse things will get?"

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