Monday, March 1, 2010

Criminal’s Aging Out

One of the myths many criminal justice practitioners labor under (due to a lack of intimate understanding of criminal world culture) is that criminal’s age-out, that is, after they reach a certain age—generally the mid fifties or so—they do not have the inclination anymore to commit crimes and face the penalties that might result.

As one of the most astute clinical psychologists working with criminals notes:

“It is widely believed that criminals outgrow crime or “burn out.” The burnout theory may be based on the fact that some older criminals cease to get arrested for street crimes, and so they don’t return to prison. It is true that as the street criminal ages, he is not as agile and literally cannot run as fast as he used to. He has mellowed out only in that he takes fewer big risks and his offenses may be less serious. But his criminal personality remains unchanged, and people still suffer at his hands.” (Samenow, S. E. (2004). Inside the Criminal Mind: Revised and Updated Edition, New York: Crown Publishers. (p. 159)

This story from the Boston Globe is one—of many that turn up regularly—also refuting that myth.

An excerpt.

“The clerk’s killing in December captured the region’s attention. The day after Christmas, a gunman wearing a scarf over most of his face robbed Dangol, a Nepalese immigrant working at a Tedeschi Food Shop in Jamaica Plain, of $746 and then shot him. The crime was captured on a store surveillance videotape.

“A state parole officer who saw the video said he recognized the gunman as his parolee, Corliss, a 63-year-old convicted murderer freed in 2006.

“After Corliss was arrested, Parole Board records reviewed by the Globe showed that he had a criminal record that dated back more than 40 years, including a conviction for a remarkably similar slaying, the 1971 shooting of an unarmed store clerk in Salisbury. He had also escaped from prison twice, and in 1991 had violated parole three months after the board released him.

“But Corliss was 60 when he appeared before the full board in 2006. Most inmates that age, criminologists say, have long passed the time when they are most likely to commit crime. “And the records provided to the Globe mentioned no disciplinary problems in prison since 1991.

“Five board members voted in July 2006 to parole Corliss over the objections of one member who wrote that Corliss posed an “ongoing public safety risk.’’ As is customary, board members who participated are named, but not how each voted, out of concerns about retaliation.”