How to Be a Successful Criminal: The Real Deal on Crime, Drugs and Easy Money.
How to be a Successful Criminal: The Real Deal on Crime, Drugs and Easy Money, by Ron Glodoski and Allen Fahden, with Judy Grant, is geared toward teens (particularly boys) at risk, in trouble, on probation or in juvenile detention facilities. While at first it comes across as smug and self-serving, a brag about what a slick operator and smarter-than-average criminal Glodoski was, by Part 4, it becomes a speech to the target audience about how to succeed in the "straight world." Glodoski explains how the same skills practiced in criminal activities are useful in the straight world, for more profit and happiness. He is brutally honest about his criminal past and the childhood stresses, personal handicaps and lack of self-esteem that contributed to his decision to sell drugs rather than obtain socially acceptable, lawful employment.
While in the beginning, I found the book tedious because of its use of slang, and distracting because of its continuous dropping of the letter "g" at the end of words, the message is an important one for teens on the brink of disaster. It is the kind of information these teenagers need to have. In fact, Glodoski challenges those who struggle for the attention of the youths in their charge, by saying, "If you don't like what I've done or how I've done it ... maybe you'll get up off your butt and come up with something better."
This book has an important message for youths at risk--an increasingly larger population, which practitioners in the juvenile and criminal justice fields and society in general find disturbing. As such, I recommend it particularly to the target audience as well as to those charged with their care, including teachers in traditional school systems. They, too, are struggling with pressures on their students who are drawn to gangs, drugs and crime.
Because of the writing style, I would have put this book down before getting to Part 2 had I not been asked to review it. However, had I put it down, I would have missed a valuable learning experience and I urge practitioners to stick with it until the end. For those who work with youths, particularly those at risk, it can be a valuable tool that applies to all teens in this 21st century, MTV "gangsta rap" culture. Having read the entire book, I recommend that educators and treatment professionals read it, use it as an integral part of a curriculum on decision-making and discuss it with the youths in their care. This book provides a base for discussion of the knowledge, skills and abilities necessary to be successful, written from the "been there, done that" perspective. Glodoski's courage in revealing his failures and criminal thinking patterns is commendable. I might have been engaged more quickly by a touch of humility, but I am not sure that his target audience would be. Therefore, what initially seems arrogance appears to serve his goal of helping teens learn how to be happy and successful.
As a correctional treatment professional for more than 35 years, I believe that anything that has the potential to stop or reverse the downward spiral of our youths is worth trying. This book offers a practical approach to a population turned off by straight, moral approaches to intervention. It neither moralizes nor preaches. While I did not personally find the writing style engaging in the beginning, I think it has a better chance of capturing the attention of its intended audience than a style that might be more appealing to its caretakers. This book tackles the problem of criminal behavior head-on and interjects some basic statistics and facts about crime and criminals under the radar so that it informs without being preachy. Also, it explains just how much hard work, discipline, knowledge and skill are involved in being a "successful criminal" without judging the choice as a bad one.
In summary, this is a timely and informative book. I believe it might be best used as a core component of a curriculum for youths at risk. As an increasingly younger population is being incarcerated in adult prisons, perhaps reading this book while they are still on probation might give youths at risk of delinquency a lifeline. If they do not read it until they get to a detention center or prison, it just may stop them from repeating the same mistakes after their first bid. I recommend this book as a study guide for both the target audience and for treatment staff who seek ways to reach those in their care. It can be a useful tool that thoughtfully used, can engage these youths in learning the skills they need to succeed in life.
Cheryl Lirette Clark, Ph.D., director of Shock Incarceration for the New York State Department of Correctional Services.