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Game Over! Strategies for Redirecting Inmate Deception.

Game Over! Strategies for Redirecting Inmate Deception, by Bill Elliott, Ph.D., and Vicki Verdeyen, Ph.D., American Correctional Association, 2002, 209 pp.

Game Over! Strategies for Redirecting Inmate Deception is an excellent text for all corrections professionals, from recruits to senior staff. Authors Bill Elliott and Vicki Verdeyen have clearly identified inmate con games and provide practical strategies for avoiding or countering the manipulation inherent in relationships between inmates and correctional staff. The authors are experienced practitioners who offer practical, realistic scenarios as examples of challenges all correctional staff face. They understand the challenges unique to the field and provide practical guidelines for those who work with a population that rejects their support--covertly or overtly--and has no compunctions about "biting the hand that feeds" it.

Game Over builds on the foundation laid by the 1981 book, Games Criminals Play: How You Can Profit by Knowing Them, by Bud Allen and Diana Bosta. This book provides strategies for all ranks in the criminal justice system, including commissioners, wardens and executive staff, and especially for those who have direct contact with offenders.

Game Over begins with an overview of the psychology of manipulative behavior and provides a structure for recognizing strategic moves in inmate behavior. In Part 1, "Learning the Game," the authors make a point that is critical to corrections professionals: "Most traditional free-world therapies were developed for individuals who are depressed, anxious and have low self-esteem. Criminal justice workers who were trained this way are at a distinct disadvantage when they begin to work with offenders who are characterized by their general lack of anxiety, care-free attitudes and love of themselves (narcissism).... Throughout this book, the authors will concentrate on setting limits, avoiding criminal manipulation and targeting the criminal belief or attitude underlying the offender's behavior."

Chapter 2, "The Psychology of Inmate Deception," identifies four categories of deception: lying by commission, lying by omission, dissimulation and manipulation. These four categories are then placed in the context of William Glasser's bench-mark standard for the field, Reality Therapy, which describes criminal manipulation as a deviant approach to fulfillment of basic needs. Other primary sources for the model presented here are Eric Berne's Transactional Analysis (1961), particularly his book Games People Play (1964), and G.D. Walters' model of criminality (1990-1998), which greatly simplifies the complex research of S. Yockelson and S.E. Samenow, The Criminal Personality (1977), and made it more accessible to practitioners. Walters' model defines criminal behavior as a "lifestyle based on three Cs: conditions, choice and cognition." After listing Walters' "eight cognitive patterns, which serve to perpetuate the criminal lifestyle," the authors provide a practical overview of how to recognize and handle these patterns. The patterns are summarized as mollification, sentimentality, power orientation, cognitive indolence, entitlement, superoptimism, cutoff and discontinuity. The book uses a series of scenarios that show the setup, the con and the sequence of "game moves," to final payoff--a "victory" for inmates and humiliation or worse for staff.

Part 2, "The Con Maneuvers," offers detailed scenarios as examples of the eight patterns played out by inmates in their daily interaction with corrections personnel. Part 3, "The 'Gender' Strategies," describes manipulations particular to female offenders and explores the factors that contribute to codependence between staff and inmates. Finally, Part 4, "It's Your Move: Staff Counter Plays," outlines the three Rs of managing manipulation and deception through "reversal of responsibility, relabeling and redirection" and offers practical suggestions for employing these strategies and for "damage control" when individuals discover that they have been conned. Chapter 9, "Ten Commandments for Prison Staff," offers ideas "considered vital in helping an employee maintain his or her sanity, sense of dignity and personal safety." Each of these directives includes practical suggestions for managing the institutional environment.

In sum, this is a book written by practitioners for practitioners. It is clear from the beginning that Elliott and Verdeyen have "been there, done that"--mistakes and all. They come across as the voice of experience--sometimes hard experience--and do not spare themselves in their examples of being duped. This book is the next best thing to having them around to provide feedback as correctional staff struggle to maintain their own sense of balance in a system that is inherently based on an imbalance of power. This book is recommended to anyone who works in criminal justice, including academics in criminal justice education departments and attorneys who work with offenders. Ideally, this book would be required reading for all in corrections--old-timers and "newbies" alike.

Reviewed by Cheryl Lirette Clark, Ph.D., director of Shock Incarceration for the New York State Department of Correctional Services.
COPYRIGHT 2003 American Correctional Association, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
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Title Annotation:Bookshelf
Author:Clark, Cheryl Lirette
Publication:Corrections Today
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Oct 1, 2003
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