Home

Animals Help Us Heal

By stavegiaDecember 15th, 2021in CJ 725

I have experienced significant trauma in my life. I didn't talk about it much when I was younger. I didn't want the attention. I don't want the attention now either. I talk about it now because it's part of who I am. I am a survivor who still tries every day to navigate her way through the jungle.

My pets have always been good for my mental health. Because of them, I am rarely lonely. The discipline of having to care for an animal keeps me moving forward, one step at a time. During times of intense stress, they calm me and focus me. These days I have two big dogs - Charlie and King. I couldn't be more grateful. The things I need, they need as well. They need to eat, go to the bathroom, and sleep. But, they also need to play. Today was a day without enough play. I am stressed and they can feel it. I will make it up to them tomorrow. I will allow myself time to play.

 

 

Halm, M. A. (2008). The healing power of the human-animal connection. American journal of critical care17(4), 373-376.

When Specialty Courts Fail

By Katie CookDecember 15th, 2021in CJ 725

It is well documented that the United States incarcerates more of its population than any other developed country in the world. This fact alone has driven the need among criminal justice administrators and court systems to look at possible causes for the increase in incarceration rates and to find alternatives to prison terms. The solution in many jurisdictions has been the implementation of “specialty courts” that address societal issues that have made their way into the courtroom. These specialty courts involve working with defendants that have ended up in the criminal justice system due to drug or substance abuse issues, mental health issues, or co-occurring disorders. The premise of these courts is that these individuals are not criminogenic by nature and are instead stuck in a cycle of committing crime to support their substance abuse or their behavior is due primarily to an untreated mental illness. The court provides these individuals with the treatment they need and would likely not receive in prison in order to reduce criminal behavior and ultimately recidivism rates.

The first specialty court was established in Dade County, Florida in 1989 (Frailing, 2016). It was created as a specialty drug court to help individuals who found themselves in the court system for crimes such as possession, trafficking, or even theft to support a drug habit. Instead of these people pleading to their crimes and being sentenced to a prison term where they would receive little if any substance abuse treatment and counseling, the court brought all the parties together as a team to incentivize the individual into getting help for their underlying issues. What made this so unique was that it brought prosecutors, judges, defense attorneys, treatment providers, and defendants into a room to work together in a system that has always been at its core, adversarial in nature. Since this first court was implemented, it has seen incredible success rates prompting other courts to launch programs of their own. As of 2020, there are now over 3,848 different specialty courts in the United States that are working to address the underlying issues behind criminal behavior (Center, 2020).

Despite the successes these courts have seen in the past 30 years, there are always some that fail. What these failing courts have in common is that they often require defendants to plead to the crimes they have been charged with and offer very little sentence or probation reduction. For example, the federal court in the District of Maine currently has a program called SWiTCH (Success With the Court’s Help). This program has been known to be incredibly unsuccessful since it was established, and many people feel the program should be abolished. I investigated why this program was so unsuccessful when other specialty courts across the country have had the opposite results. Here is what I found:

The SWiTCH program is not a part of the actual court system and instead is a drug treatment program that individuals can enter while on supervised release. They must have plead guilty to their charges in court and served their entire prison sentence first before ever being considered for the SWiTCH program. This means their criminal record remains unchanged and the amount of prison time served is not altered. The only incentive for individuals entering the program is that if completed successfully, they will receive one year deducted from their supervised release. Meetings are held on a monthly basis where individuals check in with the judge, prosecutor, defense counsel, and their treatment provider (Justice, 2021).

As you may have guessed, this program offers little incentive for individuals to complete the program successfully, and the frequency of check-in meetings provides very little oversight for those struggling with substance abuse addiction. Fundamentally, this program was set up to fail. This program is the only type of specialty court offered in the federal court system in the District of Maine and demands a complete overhaul in order to be effective.

It is important for courts and communities who wish to address societal causes of criminal behavior to explore successful and unsuccessful specialty court programs to ensure they don’t encounter the problems seen within the SWiTCH program in Maine. As with most social justice programs, it is important that all facets are well researched prior to implementation in order to achieve success. Without it, you are doomed to failure.

Resources:

Center, N. D. (2020). Treatment Courts Across the United States. Retrieved from National Drug Court Resource Center: https://ndcrc.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/08/2020_NDCRC_TreatmentCourt_Count_Table_v8.pdf

Frailing, K. (2016, April 11). The Achievements of Specialty Courts in the United States. Retrieved from Scholars Strategy Network: https://scholars.org/contribution/achievements-specialty-courts-united-states

Justice, D. o. (2021). SWiTCH (Success With The Court’s Help). Retrieved from United States Probation and Pretrial Services - District of Maine: https://www.mep.uscourts.gov/switch-success-court%E2%80%99s-help

 

 

Women Incarcerated: Basic Right Inequity

By jstone11December 15th, 2021in CJ 725

 I think it is important to analyze and discuss the trauma that woman face within the carceral system. We always discuss the trauma that individuals go through before prison, but I think it is time we talk about the trauma that surfaces within the facilities. When it comes to women, they have different situational needs that differ from men. Before incarceration woman face many adversaries and it continues in prison. For women, it is important to realize that the most common reasons for women to commit crimes are based on survival of abuse and poverty and substance abuse. Their actions can be results of many different issues, including mental illness, trauma, substance abuse and addiction, economic and social marginality, homelessness, and relationship issues (1). Programs need to be focused on individualized reformation and focus on rehabilitation. A larger percentage of women are diagnosed with major depression and anxiety disorders, especially PTSD. Most women in the system (up to 70%, possibly even more) report histories of abuse as children or adults. Additionally, a greater percentage of women have histories of substance abuse than men (2). Statistics like these are reasons why women need equality but needs specialized focused programs. Unfortunately, women face trauma before, during, and after, it is an endless cycle.

An issue that causes trauma for females within the system is centered around a basic human right and need that everyone deserves no matter the situation. The major issue within the prison systems for women that needs to be addressed is the lack of feminine hygiene products and assistance. 

Within the correctional system there is still many states without legislation or mandates on period products. In 2017, only 12 states and the District of Columbia have passed menstrual equity laws that require no cost menstrual products in state prisons, which means most incarcerated people in the United States still have limited access to the period products they need. 

Many of these women must beg, borrow, or make their own sanitary products, this proves that there is no dignity, compassion, or humanity in the system. Over the years pads and tampons have become weaponized in the system. “I know women who made products out of shreds of clothes or stuffing from inside their state-issued mattresses and were subsequently penalized for destroying public property.” This isn’t only embarrassing but it carries great health risks as well. These makeshift products can lead to toxic shock, infections, and infertility (3).

In Connecticut, commissary sold a pack of pads for $2.63. Prison jobs in Connecticut they pay as low as 30 cents per hour. “Assuming that a woman has a five-day menstrual period, each month and changes her tampon at 8-hour intervals, the maximum time suggested by gynecologists, a woman using tampons at NCCW is spending 25% of her annual salary on feminine hygiene products” (3). With that wage any of these individuals cannot afford it on top of other necessities like doctor’s visits, acetaminophen, or a phone call to a loved one. Some women even turn down visits with their family or even turn down visits with their attorneys, which can have a huge impact on their time incarcerated within the whole process (3).

When it came to asking guards for a menstrual product, there is a certain power dynamic between the guards and inmates that created a sense of humiliation even thought this is a basic need. Sometimes guards would use manipulation and blackmail against the inmates and used their power to go above them. According to a 2019 Period Equity and ACLU report, a Department of Justice investigation found that correctional officers at Tutwiler Prison for Women in Alabama coerced incarcerated people to have sex with them in exchange for access to period products (3). 

This even is affecting young women too, there is a youth rehabilitation and treatment center in Geneva. This place houses girls anywhere from age fourteen to nineteen. Even they had to pay for their own feminine hygiene products. The young girls can’t earn money while in the home, so it is entirely up to the families. The problem rests on the fact that some families are poor and cannot afford to travel to visit them let alone afford these sanitary products for them.

Every individual has a right to personal hygiene whether you're incarcerated or not. Giving woman sanitation products and focusing on women health is a major factor that needs to be included in personal treatment plans for women in prison. The deny of these basic rights reinforces any kind of powerlessness you have ever felt in your life.


Resources

Bartol, C. R., & Bartol, A. M. (2021). Criminal behavior: A psychological approach. 

Lee, J. (2021, July 1). 5 pads for 2 cellmates: Period products are still scarce in prison. The 19th. Retrieved December 9, 2021, from https://19thnews.org/2021/06/5-pads-for-2-cellmates-period-inequity-remains-a-problem-in-prisons/?amp

Rousseau, D. (2021). Module 4: Implementing Psychology in the Criminal Justice System. [Lecture Notes]. Boston University Metropolitan College.

Is it trauma-informed?

By Natalie CrepeauDecember 14th, 2021in CJ 725

In some of my previous discussions, I have described my experiences as a juvenile detention officer and what kind of programs the facility has. It seemed that the more I learned throughout this course, the more surprised I was with the lack of trauma-informed programs and practices at my place of work. Considering the frequency with which I see kids who have a plethora of traumatic experiences and mental health problems, I wanted to examine one program we run in the facility and analyze how trauma-informed it truly is.

Generally speaking, the programs that are run within our facility are a means to occupy the minors, keep them active, or fulfill some type of school-based requirement as a primary goal. It appears that having well-rounded, trauma-informed, and healing programs is secondary to that. Along with programs such as sex education and big brothers big sisters, our facility has a yoga instructor come in every week day to lead an hour-long class. Sometimes, the hour of yoga is the only structured physical activity the minors have throughout the day, and therefore, it fulfills their physical education requirement. At times, the youth aren’t engaged in the yoga. Often times, especially if yoga is in the morning, they will just lay there and sleep- claiming that they are “meditating.” Personally, I think it would be helpful to have more discussion with the kids about what kind of impact the yoga has on them and how they can use the time to be mindful, as “Even though a yoga instructor may try to proceed with the best of intentions, they may not realize that without proper training on trauma-informed yoga, they could be leaving certain youth feeling disempowered and marginalized” (OGyoga).

The TIMBo program has three objectives of: providing accessible tools for coping, gain awareness of the body, and begin a process of transformation (Rousseau & Jackson, 2014). The program I am familiar with is essentially just a yoga class, without identifiable objectives, and rarely any discussion with the participants or indication that the class is meant to do more than help them be relaxed or flexible. Benefits of trauma-informed yoga include emotional awareness, increased self-esteem, improved ability to identify negative behavior, improved conflict resolution (OGyoga), decreased anxiety, decreased trauma symptoms, and increased self-compassion (Rousseau & Jackson, 2014). Our current program could provide those same benefits if instructors and staff were trained and youth were engaged in a more meaningful and knowledgeable way.

Trauma-informed services are safe, predictable, structured, and involve repetition in order to avoid triggering trauma reactions, support coping capacities, and provide some kind of benefit from the service (Rousseau, 2021). Overall, I think taking the time, efforts, and resources to update the existing program would be worth it. Often, we are told to be mindful of trauma that the kids experience, but we are given training that seems inadequate and do not provide them with programs that are substantial enough to address their trauma. Especially since incarceration itself can be traumatizing, we need to maximize the potential of existing programs and implement others in order to best serve the youth and help them heal. Although the current program is safe and structured, I do not think it is trauma-informed. The purpose of the program and structure of it was not made to intentionally respond to and aid the youth in this way, therefore, the youth cannot gain the same benefits they would from a truly trauma-informed yoga class.

References

Burrell, S. (n.d.). Trauma and the environment of care in juvenile institutions. The National Child Traumatic Stress Network. Retrieved from https://www.nctsn.org/sites/default/files/resources/trauma_and_environment_of_care_in_juvenile_institutions.pdf

OGyoga. (2018). Benefits of yoga for youth who have experienced trauma. Retrieved from https://www.ogyoga.org/resources/2018/2/8/benefits-of-yoga-for-youth-who-have-experienced-trauma

Rousseau, D. (2021). Module 4: Implementing psychology in the criminal justice system. Retrieved from https://learn.bu.edu/bbcswebdav/pid-9312167-dt-content-rid-57732979_1/courses/21fallmetcj725_o2/course/w4/metcj725_ALL_W4.html

Rousseau, D. & Jackson, E. (2014). yogaHOPE: Healing ourselves through personal empowerment. Retrieved from https://learn-us-east-1-prod-fleet02-xythos.content.blackboardcdn.com/5deff46c33361/3915210?X-Blackboard-Expiration=1639450800000&X-Blackboard-Signature=%2FsKuLigz%2FZWXITxDNSLpkjtyQsl%2FBRRz2u1Ua8JV5wo%3D&X-Blackboard-Client-Id=100902&response-cache-control=private%2C%20max-age%3D21600&response-content-disposition=inline%3B%20filename%2A%3DUTF-8%27%27w4_read_TIMBo2014.pdf&response-content-type=application%2Fpdf&X-Amz-Security-Token=IQoJb3JpZ2luX2VjEGcaCXVzLWVhc3QtMSJHMEUCIDbX7i4%2FUdN1FyWpa4YvUA9OXdUWl4PbvWyihcCdYrTbAiEAgzEuYiNoBEETgHcE5W%2FAIfLBVCtk44SAPgoZLEr8BXsq%2BgMIUBACGgw2MzU1Njc5MjQxODMiDOWGmjYfScfEwRbnZyrXA%2BUpqWiEio%2FC%2BaPuLxxgnsNDeuROz8TDyhwPRSZP8%2BgarYqIVnP%2BJQ1H08%2Be23OZkZRCFEDk%2FlL%2BCq%2BSpwrv7hdrE8Mw6ZYFwZigud6ucpTF9HdSTOdW6OWsViAZlfBQcjE0SVMtSmdMo5BSkONjpgTbvrZNZ1pJQCPAQ6KWtOsnLUwfyFAf1srlwDrWe1aakVRaNpkJVTFEnt4PIciappAAGDW4p2ZbRuualWc0%2BAY4GSAFjFoC24n%2FdGM6GTgm5c1dP%2BildfpepwI6pmGDWlpxkRp2bv755IKUFkx5SSsXnoL9V%2F2sDCeWlSNnvWcnfsMLEZpz3Bx0wSKqBwHkvpMdSOUfj0oeEudLKErXYI5rOvwvUSOPlEqJbOPDYdQC2oZqOCYSZZRwrTApECD%2Bsze5WVuRhtViQ7msg6Rzu39WNB%2BzK8sxPAEtbHrzTWUbZds08QFicUXoi6dUsP9GYfZBCAt%2BTeVTO6Iv8rKCtawxjhC3Sl7qGJM5b3Jjo2hSTq%2FGwg8qE%2BOlWV82QhKrL7WAT0n6LWAzjdrVdJ9uT8d%2F7CNU%2FAc27B%2F8PC8s5ZYQJmZfD0cNwxle1Fl9GWOMtVFZwL8Tl%2BZeK6SbFZCeMfBgVF99dSy5ADCeoN%2BNBjqlAe5F9vyFs%2FXdR47oEzyIn3tB4ex%2FZQgbrWMPtFJEO1nvgeH%2BCM58RVLGBpreCahDgI%2F2fZUyBvvtiUtK78cGNk28xgyhU1FAlIi6faiErKlXRkxeTTkyFY72M8ZL8%2Bn2jsDt%2F%2F44%2BRzD389ka3tygofYS9fikZe4B17XSxM%2BQXpm2BPsPu1Zu8g2CPadYi8Hs0nOZKZ%2Feur%2BftQVw1LLz7NeUjArMQ%3D%3D&X-Amz-Algorithm=AWS4-HMAC-SHA256&X-Amz-Date=20211213T210000Z&X-Amz-SignedHeaders=host&X-Amz-Expires=21600&X-Amz-Credential=ASIAZH6WM4PL7XQYCGEE%2F20211213%2Fus-east-1%2Fs3%2Faws4_request&X-Amz-Signature=ccfca75afac21ad3161a33d2f1a6ec305280acea1baa94efe52aab641f2a2314

 

 

Grief: Is It Possible to Have a Worthwhile Life After Sexual Abuse?

By Alina AbramenkoDecember 14th, 2021in CJ 725

Rape, by definition, is an attack or an attempted attack that involves unwanted sexual contact with penetration, in a relationship between an offender and a victim, where the victim lacks the consent (Bartol, 2020). This definition seems to be very straightforward, however, it does not fully explain why a plethora of victims never report this act of sexual violence but go through mental, physical or both traumas and grieve. What does stand behind this complicated grief? Why are some treatments not effective? What are those psychological tricks that sexual offenders apply to their victims so that they question whether it is possible to live a worthwhile life or not after the sexual abuse they were exposed to? 

 

Before shedding some light on the complexity of sexual-related crimes, it is worth it to look at some important facts: the victimization data on adult females within relationship factors. Precisely, 24.4 % of sexual assaulters are strangers, 21.9 % are husbands or ex-husbands, 19.5 % are boyfriends or ex-boyfriends, 14.6 % are acquaitances such as friends or neighbors and 9.8 % are relatives (Bartol, 2020). Thus, one can conclude that the majority of rape cases are indeed conducted by strangers and those who victims might have a relationship with. That being said, there is a puzzle being raised: why don’t rape victims report to the police about what happened to them and prefer to grieve in silence? Clearly, those rape cases that involve intimate partners might have a logical explanation since victims have fear to confess that their husband or boyfriend has exposed them to sexual violence, especially if an offender and a victim turn to have a family together, and a raped woman is willing to protect her children. However, what about those cases when a stranger is involved? What does stop a female to report the sexual crime if there is no personal connection to the perpetrator? To answer these questions, it might be informative to analyze the tapes of 911 calls that were made despite the unwillingness of victims to report. 

 

Now, if we refer to 911 calls, it might be noticed that the relationship between a perpetrator and a victim is not that complete and obvious as it seems from the first sight. To illustrate this, an array of 911 calls show that a victim usually blames herself for the sexual violent acts occurred because, first, most likely this victim meets her perpetrator in the bar, next, typically the rape itself happens in the victim’s house, and finally, the victim emphasizes her fault since she was drinking alcohol that led to these adverse consequences (Sexual Assault, Media Education Foundation). From the tapes’ perspective, it becomes clear that the victim’s role in this relationship tends to get dual. In others words, we get a victim, a woman who realizes that she was exposed to sexual abuse and violations of her rights, and an “unnamed conspirator” who keeps whispering to this woman “listen, this is you who drank with him, invited him to your house, drove with him in your own car, and eventually brought him to your house”. The concept of an “unnamed conspirator” (Munch, 2012) is not new, it was developed by Anne Munch, an advocate for victims of sexual assault and stalking, who discovered the presence of the third side existing in the relationship between a victim and an offender. This theoretical discovery in the field of sexual-related crimes and trauma is very crucial because it demonstrates a strong influence of this “unnamed conspirator” that we can call as some sort of moral rules “follower” that dictates a victim to obey them, and since they were infringed, a victim experienced a terrible feeling of fault and sacrifices herself as a martyr who is exposed to suffering. And this is the moment when the grief comes into play. A victim is convinced by this “unnamed conspirator” that she has broken the moral code, and she prefers to isolate herself from society, thinking that this society will actually judge her since she was this initiator of the sexual act, she is convinced that it was not sexual assault or rape, it’s her who should be blamed in every single consequence. Thus, applying this theory we can conclude that a perpetrator exposes his victim not only to physical violent acts but also to psychological traps knowing in advance that the victim will “interact” with the “unnamed conspirator” and this element of their relationship will contribute to putting the victim into endless cycles of fault and grief, meaning there is a potential guarantee that she won’t report about him to the police. This scenario serves as a example of a violent culture that keeps growing especially in the community of young females who study at college (indeed, this victim profile is the most frequent one for perpetrators to deal with since young females find themselves irresponsible in a sense due to drinking in a bar and as a result going through basically negative consequences they have created themselves - this is a typical logic of a victim that was exposed to sexual violence by a stranger). This leads us to horrendous traumas that young women experience by binding themselves with “grief handcuffs” from their young age.

 

After this theoretical analysis, one should refer to traumas themselves. Particularly, this can be the rape trauma syndrome or post-traumatic stress disorder (Bartol, 2020). “Grief” argument is exactly related to this psychological traumatic experience because the main syndromes go around anxiety, feelings of helplessness, shame, depression or the development of phobias. However, it also does not exclude the physical malfunction either since rape trauma sydnrome includes sexual dysfynction as well. Now, the treatment for traumas linked to sexual abuse might seem to be simple to follow as it is usually advised to seek for a trauma therapist; join some supporting groups in order not feel alone or disclose to those ones who a victim trusts in order to feel support and overcome this crisis. This is why it is worth it to look at the Survivor Therapy Empowerment Program that was elaborated by Dr. Walker (2013). This program is based on the principles of trauma and feminist theories where she claims that the trauma healing should be based on safety planning, empowerment via self-care since it is a priority to take the power back to a survivor, overcoming depression to optimism and developing cognitive clarity (Walker, 2013). This treatment approach seems to be quite essential to apply for the victims of rape or domestic violence, and it was successfully developed within verbal therapeutic approaches that indeed can be a decent treatment for those who needs support and sense of belonging to the community to eradicate the feeling of loneliness.  

 

However, these techniques are not necessarily effective and simple to apply for those victims who are trapped inside the “grief cycle” shaped by the “unnamed conspirator”. In order to find the proper treatment for these specific cases, one should understand what the grief cycle is. For example, the model of Kubler-Ross (1969) includes 5 stages of grief which are denial (the stage that helps the victim to survive “loss”), anger (the stage when the victim lives the terrible reality), bargaining (the stage of false hope), depression (the stage that represents the emptiness the victim feels) and acceptance (the stage when the victim tries to start living with what has happened). Having this knowledge in mind, it might be possible to consider another type of trauma treatment that involves 2 phases of therapy: medical and psychological. From the medical perspective, the prescription of medications such as sedatives or anti-depressants influences the victim inside while assisting in functioning the nervous system properly via supporting the sleep process and suppressing the grief during the day time. When it comes to the psychological approaches, counselling still might be a beneficial verbal therapy that as we can see from the above mentioned programs is capable of producing positive results. Nevertheless, an amalgam of both approaches should be applied since the grief cycle is not just a complex phenomenon consisting of different stages but also a mental trap that victims are exposed to in sexual violence and it requires a complex treatment that doesn’t leave aside neither the physical nor mental elements of a female body.       

 

Works cited 

 

  1. Bartol, C. R., & Bartol, A. M. (2020). Criminal behavior: A psychological approach.
  2. Kubler-Ross E. (1969). On Death and Dying. 50th Anniversary Edition. 
  3. Munch A. (2012). Sexual Assault: Naming the Unnamed Conspirator. Media Education Foundation. 
  4. Walker L. (2013). Domestic Violence and Survivor Therapy Empowerment Program.    

Was “DC Sniper Sidekick” Manipulated into Crime Spree?

By Dominic ManganoDecember 14th, 2021in CJ 725

On October 2, 2002, five people were gunned down by a  long range rifle in a fifteen hour span in Montgomery County, MD. Over the next three weeks, these sniper-style shootings were occurring all throughout the DMV area, terrifying everyone. These shootings were happening in broad daylight and the victims were randomly selected. Age, race, and gender did not seem to mater. Locals were hiding behind their vehicle's while pumping gas, school recess was being held indoors, and sports practices were cancelled because no one wanted to be the next victim. Finally, the attacks came to an end with the shooters, John Allen Muhammad (41) and Lee Boyd Malvo (17) were arrested while sleeping in their car, without incident, at a rest stop in Maryland. The dark blue Chevrolet Caprice was found to have a hole in the trunk that was able to fit a sniper-rifle barrel through it. The prime suspect, John Allen Muhammad admitted that the motive of the shootings was to eventually kill his ex-wife by making it look like it was apart of these random shootings. Muhammad was a former US Army sniper and Gulf War Veteran. He was awarded the highest award for marksmanship in the Army (Washington, D.C. sniper John Muhammad convicted 2009). The upbringing of his accomplice, Lee Boyd Malvo was a little bit different.

According to The Atlantic, "he became wrapped up in John Allen Muhammad's wickedness...the older man controlled his understudy, controlled him to the point of hypnosis. All the kid wanted was a decent father, and when his own dad failed to be there for him, he allowed another man, a truly evil man, to play the part. The result is a mournful story with a Shakespearean arc" (Cohen, 2012). Malvo was born in Kingston, Jamaica to a single mother and bounced from family member to family member while his mom worked. His mother moved them to Antigua in hopes of a better life for her and her soon. It was in Antigua that Malvo first meet Muhammad where he quickly became a father figure. “The groundwork was laid in Antigua because I leaned on him, I trusted him, Malvo said. I was unable to distinguish between Muhammad the father I had wanted and Muhammad the nervous wreck that was just falling to pieces. He understood exactly how to motivate me by giving approval or denying approval. It’s very subtle. It wasn’t violent at all. It’s like what a pimp does to a woman” (White, 2012). Throughout Malvo's life he claims to have been sexually abused starting from the age of five by a babysitter, throughout his life by family members, and also by Muhammad. The three of them moved to Florida where Malvo's mother practically gave him away to Muhammad. Three years after moving to Florida is when the murder spree began. After their arrest, Malvo was so manipulated by Muhammad that when he found out the death penalty was more prevalent in Virginia, he originally took the blame for all of the shootings (White, 2012).

In an interview conducted by Matt Lauer with the Today Show, Malvo was quoted saying, “The main reason I'm coming forward now is because I am more mature. As far as the guilt that I carried around for several years, I dealt with that to a large extent for years. And now, I can handle this. In here, there's no therapy. Rehabilitation is just a word. In solitary confinement, in a cell by yourself, I am priest, doctor, therapist. So, it just worked out that I just took it off piece by piece. That I could handle it" (Sager & Stump, 2012). It seems now that Lee Boyd Malvo is no longer under the spell of John Allen Muhammad and understands the amount of damage that he has caused.  After a six week trial, John Allen Muhammad was given the death penalty and Lee Boyd Malvo was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Do you think this was a fair sentence for Malvo? If it were not for Muhammad how much different would Malvo's life have been?       

 

References:

A&E Television Networks. (2009, November 13). Washington, D.C. sniper John Muhammad convicted. History.com.

Cohen, A. (2012, October 1). The making, and unmaking, of D.C. sniper Lee Boyd Malvo. The Atlantic.

Sager, I., & Stump, S. (2012, October 25). D.C. sniper Lee Boyd Malvo: I was sexually abused by my accomplice. TODAY.com.

White, J. (2012, September 29). Lee Boyd Malvo, 10 years after D.C. area sniper shootings: 'I was a monster'. The Washington Post.

Fighting Mental Illness in Law Enforcement

By Emiley GarciazychDecember 14th, 2021in CJ 725

Violent crime would generally be considered a life-altering event. It scars, it molds, it changes people whether they like it or not. This is why therapists and psychologists play such a large role in the prevention and study of crime because it has so much to do with the mind and its triggers. But when the people responsible for bringing justice take on the burden of these crimes, who takes care of them? 

According to Dr. John Violanti, a researcher at the University of Buffalo, it is estimated that approximately 15% of law enforcement officers suffer from PTSD symptoms. This number is likely much higher due to the stigma of mental illness as a member of law enforcement. “This is dangerous”, says Dr. Janet and David Shucard. PTSD affects executive mental function and when the brains that handle weapons and are supposed to protect the public aren’t working at their best, people get hurt. Police officers, in particular, make decisions involving deadly force. Having quick and calculated mental functions is important to not killing someone innocent. 

The American Psychological Association offers many solutions for those who have been formally diagnosed with PTSD. They’re variations of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy which focuses on changing the connections the mind makes with certain behaviors and feelings. It’s designed to remodel the pathways of the brain and change dangerous and dysfunctional associations. Cognitive Processing Therapy focuses on the traumatic event itself and aims to redefine the pain one associates with it. The treatment is typically delivered over 12 meetings with a psychologist. Cognitive Therapy is another variant and is designed to modify the memory of the trauma. This is an intensive treatment plan and requires over three months of commitment to weekly meetings and group events. The last variant of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is Prolonged Exposure Therapy. The hope of this form is that through gradual exposure to the memories in safety and with the aid of a psychologist, one will learn that the trauma itself cannot hurt them. The pain is only present in the actual event, not in its memory. This form also requires a three-month treatment period with more frequent check-ins as remembering traumatic events can make one more vulnerable to panic attacks and triggers as they begin their healing process. 

PTSD as a concept is continuously being studied. Researchers from across the globe devote their lives to understanding how to fix minds that have experienced trauma. Members of law enforcement are particularly vulnerable to developing PTSD by the nature of their profession. They are trained to avoid their natural instinct to run from danger and instead tasked with standing up against it. This is why PTSD symptoms should be carefully monitored before they develop into something more. Members of the New York State Department encourage the use of trauma-inoculation training and trauma awareness so that officers can take their mental health into their own hands. It is by helping the people that are trained to help us, that we can make the world a better place. 

Sources

David Shucard and Janet L. Shucard, “Electrophysiological and Neuroimaging Studies of Cognitive Control: Introduction to Special Issue,” International Journal of Psychophysiology 87 (2013): 215–216, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ijpsycho.2013.03.009. 

König, J. (2014). Thoughts and Trauma – Theory and Treatment of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder from a Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Perspective. Intervalla: platform for intellectual exchange, 2, 13- 19.

T.J. Covey, Janet L Shucard, John M Violanti, and David Shucard, “The Effects of Exposure to Traumatic Stressors on Inhibitory Control in Police Officers: A Dense Electrode Array Study Using a Go/NoGo Continuous Performance Task, International Journal of Psychophysiology 87 (2013): 363–375, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ijpsycho.2013.03.009.

Waltman, S. H. (2015). Functional Analysis in Differential Diagnosis: Using Cognitive Processing Therapy to Treat PTSD. Clinical Case Studies, 14(6), 422-433.  

 

The “Infotainment” of Mental Health and Crime

By Dara DoaneDecember 14th, 2021in CJ 725

When you think about mental illness and how it is portrayed in media, it seems as though many people would instinctually lean towards fictional television shows like “Criminal Minds” or news broadcasts discussing the mental state of the most recent mass murderer or criminal dominating the news cycle.

The best way to describe the sensationalized nature of mental health in media? Infotainment.

Infotainment is described as “television or radio programs that treat factual material in an entertaining manner, as by including dramatic elements” – it is “both informative and entertaining” (Dictionary.com).

However, by framing serious crimes and mental illness in this “infotainment” perspective, it may do more harm than good. In a study of newspapers in the United Kingdom on how they reported mental health, Chen & Lawrie (2017) found that more than 50% of all daily news reports on mental health were depicted in a negative light, often associating those with mental illnesses as violent in comparison to those who are physically ill. The news has a “preferential reporting for sensationalist stories depicting individuals with mental disorders as being aggressive, dangerous, and unpredictable” (Chen & Lawrie, 2017, p. 308).

Chen & Lawrie (2017) state that news sources (newspapers, TV news channels, social media, etc.) hold a key role in how society learns about the world around them. This has been seen before with the campaigned "War on Drugs" and the efforts to lock up juvenile "superpredators" - where politicians and media sources campaign on and distort an issue within the criminal justice system. For the majority of people who may have limited exposure to mental illness or the criminal justice system, these news and media sources are how they learn. As a consequence, a social wariness is encouraged towards those with mental illness or with a criminal background.

It may be a fair assumption that most people will not turn to scholarly journal articles to inform themselves of current events or issues. Instead, they will do what is most convenient: turn on their TV or open up their phone to their favorite news app or social media site. Over 80% of all Americans get their news from their smartphone or other device (Shearer, 2021). Often, the goal of these media sources is to gain the most clicks and to keep users scrolling. To do that, eye-catching titles, flashy graphics, and other forms of clickbait are used. Through this, real-world issues like mental health and crime often become distorted to something more dramatic or polarizing for the sake of public consumption, rather than as issues that require real attention and solutions. The conversations about how those with mental illness may also have corresponding drug or alcohol addictions, may have been victimized by others, or who might otherwise be at some sort of social or economic disadvantage compared to larger society are subsequently missed.

While this “infotainment” approach towards mental health and crime can help to bring awareness to societal issues of health care and the criminal justice system, a careless approach to these discussions can be a slippery slope. As Dr. Rousseau (2021) states, “stigma erodes confidence that mental disorders are real, treatable health conditions” which, in turn, can create real “attitudinal, structural, and financial barriers to effective treatment and recovery.” People may view mental illness as something to fear or lock away, when it instead be more productive to view individuals with mental illnesses and criminal histories as individuals in need of help and rehabilitation. A large portion of America's prison/jail population is comprised of individuals with serious mental illness that impact daily life and functioning, and these individuals often end up back in a carceral setting again after release (Baillargeon, 2009). This may be in part due to the fact that many of these people do not get or have access to consistent mental health treatments after release, so a cycle is created. 

When it comes to real-world news consumption, people should be careful to understand that many of these news channels or sites are trying to get you to click on their pages – and that individuals may have to go to multiple sources to get a more wholistic view of the situation in a way that is sensitive to the nature of mental health and trauma. Instead of solely turning to their favorite news channel, individuals may also stop to consider that people and their mental health are more than just a headline or a sound byte – they may want to turn to scholarly publications and studies to better understand the conditions that are being discussed, or look into the programs and polices that are in place to deal with these situations.

To help alleviate some of the stigma surrounding mental health in fictional media (TV shows and movies) perhaps rather than always connecting mental illness to violent crime and the negative consequences, we should start emphasizing more sensitive or realistic depictions of mental health in a way that is still entertaining to viewers. To start, some of my personal recommendations would include Marvel’s Jessica Jones (Netflix), Shameless (SHOWTIME), or The Queen’s Gambit (Netflix).

Overall, there is much work that needs to be done to connect the realms of entertainment and information to avoid the distorting effects of infotainment. Perhaps by opening up these discussions of how mental health and the criminal justice system are portrayed in media and news, we can get one step closer towards destigmatizing these issues and creating real change.

 

Resources:

Baillargeon, J., et al. (2009). Psychiatric disorders and repeat incarcerations: The revolving prison doorAmerican Journal of Psychiatry, 166, 103–109.

Chen, M., & Lawrie, S. (2017). Newspaper depictions of mental and physical health. BJPsych bulletin, 41(6), 308–313. https://doi.org/10.1192/pb.bp.116.054775

Dictionary.com. (n.d.). Infotainment. Dictionary.com. Retrieved December 11, 2021, from https://www.dictionary.com/browse/infotainment.

Rousseau, D. (2021). Module 2: What is Mental Illness [Lecture Notes]. Boston University Metropolitan College.

Shearer, E. (2021, January 12). More than eight-in-ten Americans get news from digital devices. Pew Research Center. Retrieved from https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2021/01/12/more-than-eight-in-ten-americans-get-news-from-digital-devices/.

Self- Care: Deeper than Stress

By debvin98December 14th, 2021in CJ 725

By: Deborah Vincent

About two years ago, if you had asked me what self-care was, I probably wouldn't be able to answer that. But when you ask someone what exactly stress is, their first answer is often about something they are struggling with externally. Certainly, there is a general definition of stress. It’s defined when “environmental demands [exceed] the capacity for effective response” (Parsonson & Alquicira, 2019). Unfortunately for professionals, this can often be their workplace and home life. When that stress is at its utmost height, we begin to experience burnout; “emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and reduced personal accomplishment (Parsonson & Alqucira, 2019). As professionals, this can be detrimental to patients but also to the mental and physical health of the professional. The risk of this for professionals, such as therapists, is that they may find themselves unable to regain energy and focus without a break (Pope & Vasquez, 20005). In an early study, it was found that among therapists working with sex offenders, “half had experienced emotional hardening, rising, and confrontation; more than a third suffered frustration with society or the correctional system; and one quarter experienced burnout” (Parsonson & Alquicira, 2019). This can look different in everyone. You may no longer see the value in your work. You might even begin to ignore crucial information with patients. 

So, what should one do? Can we use self-care to alleviate something deeper than stress?

For starters, I know it is so easy to bury yourself in your work. We can sometimes use work as an excuse to not deal with the outside world. But you are more than just your work. You might be a mother, a wonderful cook, quite the explorer. Who are you outside of work? Who do you wish to become?

Is it clear now that there is so much more to self-care than removing stress?

Self-care is about taking a moment to center yourself, realizing what’s important to you. But it goes hand in hand with being mindful of yourself, your thoughts, your intentions. Being self-aware of your emotions. 

...

A great book, "Mindfulness for Beginners", was introduced to me by a professor roughly two years ago. It consists of multiple activities. Here are just two activities that I think truly made a difference in my approach to life.

I hope they can do the same for you. Take a moment, 5 minutes or so, to yourself and pick one of these activities.

  • Take 5 minutes out of your day and write about the person in your life that you appreciate. Why? What would you tell them if they were standing here with you?
  • “Morning Pages” Write down everything you're thinking. EVERYTHING. Do this for as long as you think you can go. Now reading back at your page, what do you notice? Any patterns?

How do you feel? I hope this is something you can adopt into your everyday life. It should be clear now that relieving stress is more than just self-care but also about “[maintaining] equilibrium or homeostasis within a self-system such that the professional self does not impinge on the personal self and vice versa” (Bressi & Vaden, 2017).

 

References:

Bressi, S.K., Vaden, E.R. Reconsidering Self Care. Clin Soc Work J 45, 33–38 (2017). https://doi-org.ezproxy.bu.edu/10.1007/s10615-016-0575-4

Parsonson, K., & Alquicira, L. (2019). The Power of Being There for Each Other: The Importance of Self-Awareness, Identifying Stress and Burnout, and Proactive Self-Care Strategies for Sex-Offender Treatment Providers. International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology, 63(11), 2018–2037. https://doi.org/10.1177/0306624X19841773

Pope, Kenneth S.; Vasquez, Melba J. T. (2005); In: How to survive and thrive as a therapist: Information, ideas, and resources for psychologists in practice. Pope, Kenneth S.; Vasquez, Melba J. T.; Publisher: American Psychological Association, pp. 13-21. [Chapter]

 

 

self-care

By Katherine OgnibeneDecember 14th, 2021in CJ 725

As a society we are often taught to constantly go-go-go. America's working class is said to be the "backbone of the economy", it is the land of success and opportunity (“5 traits of America’s working class - CBS News”, n.d.). A working mindset is almost handed over to us at a young age to adopt and apply to our individual lives so that we are motivated to fit into the common mold and path of school, careers, family, and retirement.

Personally, being related to and knowing such successful individuals, it is not a rare feeling that you should constantly be working towards your future. We may be taught to associate free time with laziness and negativity, however, that is not the case. I say lightheartedly, that I am convinced my dad is not capable of sitting down and doing "nothing". It is extremely hard for him to relax because of how he was raised and also the generation he was born into. My dad was born in the 1960s so as many of us know, identifying and/or managing stress, anxiety, depression, and many more related mental health disorders were not talked about or treated like they are today. Thankfully, I was taught how important it is to take the necessary time off to self soothe and re-energize so that you can put forth your best work and attitude utilizing your healthy mental and physical energy. I find it beneficial to dissociate and know when it is time to put a topic to rest for the night. After a stressful day I have a couple of things that help me re-coupe, for one, I love having face masks and calming essential oil scents to choose from. Also taking a hot shower and changing into something comfy always helps set a relaxing tone for the rest of the day or evening. I do find it useful, if something continues to linger in my conscious, to vent a little bit to a loved one but I do not always need a response in return so sometimes just having someone listening to my day is all I need.

This working mindset is related to the uprising of mental health disorders in the United States. It is said that, "Nearly 1 in 5 US adults aged 18 or older (18.3% or 44.7 million people) reported any mental illness in 2016.2 In addition, 71% of adults reported at least one symptom of stress, such as a headache or feeling overwhelmed or anxious." (“Mental Health in the Workplace”, n.d.). Especially for those working in trauma or the criminal justice field, it is so important to practice self care, not only for oneself but for those they work with. Preaching and teaching practices to inmates or trauma patients requires compassion, understanding, self inquiry, and knowing personally what works for you may be useful information that you can tie into your practices.

As previously taught, in Dani Harris and Danielle Rousseau’s “Yoga and Resilience: Understanding Sexual Trauma” trauma resides in the body. Practicing yoga and movement can be greatly beneficial in reconnecting with your body, however, because the "stress response is a biologically derived reaction to a life-threatening event. With trauma, survivors can become stuck in the stress response, reacting even when they are not currently in threat of danger. Survivors may have stress reactions to everyday events and experiences. Further, reenactment and re-experiencing trauma can occur at any point, even during what may seem to be an otherwise ordinary and non-threatening circumstance." As stated before, everyone deals and reacts differently but yoga, mediation, and mindfulness is known to be especially helpful with alleviating stress, anxiety, and other related symptoms, for those who have experienced sexual traumas and leads to significant potential for resilience. This practice is used to "ease the somatic and emotional toll that many survivors pay as a result of their trauma." Additionally found extremely beneficial is deep breathing, which often coincides with the practices done in yoga. Deep breathing quite literally sends signals to your nervous system telling it to calm down.

5 traits of America’s working class - CBS News. Retrieved December 13, 2021, from https://www.cbsnews.com/media/5-traits-of-americas-working-class/

Mental Health in the Workplace. Retrieved December 13, 2021, from https://www.cdc.gov/workplacehealthpromotion/tools-resources/workplace-health/mental-health/index.html

Harris, D., & Rousseau, D. (2020). Understanding Sexual Trauma. In Yoga and Resilience: Empowering Practices for Survivors of Sexual Trauma. Handspring Publishing.