My "criminal mindset"

December 28, 2010

A friend at
church asked me to help with her son's project for a college psychology class.
He was studying the criminal mindset of women inmates and needed a control
group to compare them with. So his mom handed out the survey to adult women at
our church.

I answered
the questions as honestly as I could. Yes, I believe there are systemic issues
that keep people in poverty. Yes, I believe people of color are sometimes
treated unfairly by our judicial system.

A few weeks
later my friend mentioned that her son was surprised by the results from our
control group: we scored extremely high on having a criminal mindset. Now, I
don't know much about the methodology. The test is apparently a standard survey
developed and approved by boards to judge "criminal thinking." But I was
offended by the results.

I tried to
answer the questions from a Christian perspective. I care about things like
liberation of the oppressed, fairness for the poor and acceptance of the ethnic
other. I try to be educated about places 
where injustice is present so that I can work for justice, encompassing
righteousness, mercy and reconciliation.

But by
following our church's biblical emphasis on breaking the chains of injustice,
we church ladies were pegged as thinking like criminals. 

It's
unsettling until I remember that Jesus was arrested, tried and executed by a
society that saw his message of economic reversal and love for the poor and the
oppressed as criminal too. Then I realize how countercultural Christianity
really is.

Comments

"Criminal" mindset

The survey must have been skewed to evaluate the answers not as sympathetic but rather as endorsement of certain behaviors.

--Pat Pope

"Criminal Thinking"

The 'skewing' mentioned earlier is a significant problem. Much of the 'cognitive-behavioral' therapy of criminal offenders would tag those responses as representing "entitlement issues" and a refusal to take responsibility for one's own actions.
This, for me as both a Christian and a psychotherapist, points to the need for persons of faith to educate themselves and become involved in the issues of criminal justice and offender re-entry so as to represent a view point that holds persons responsible, addresses systemic issues, and believes in redemption and recovery.
-Stephen Price

"Criminal Mindset"

"Criminal mindset?" according to whom? I'd like to see who drew up the test and its methodology. That would be fascinating!

Criminal Mindset

The difference between the Christian women (presumably non-inmate Christian women) and the criminal women (inmates) is in their vantage point or literal (real-life, physical) position relative to the issues in question, and, most importantly, in their literal (real-life, physical) responses. If we Christian women respond only with position statements, the bigger crime may be our benign responses.