April Freeman Banner 2014


Book Review: Inside The Criminal Mind by Stanton Samenow


(Times Books, 130 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10011), 1984 285 pages • $15.50 cloth

President Ronald Reagan, in his address to the International Association of Chiefs of Police, pointed out that every 30 minutes in the United States at least one person is murdered, nine women are raped, 67 people are robbed, 97 are assaulted and 389 homes are burglarized. And just as tragic is that many of these criminals are “repeat offenders.”

Crime casts a shadow over the lives of virtually every one of us. We install burglar alarms in our homes, put anti-theft devices on our cars, avoid the New York subways, stay indoors after dark because the streets are taken over by criminals. The criminal justice system is widely distrusted and millions of Americans buy hand guns for self-defense. Why this epidemic of crime?

At the core of the problem is a false view of human nature. Too many criminologists, penologists, and even judges accept the pernicious notion that the individual person is a creature of his environment, shaped by social forces into whatever he happens to be. The criminal is corrupted by the institutions of his society and therefore is not responsible for himself and his actions. Blame attaches to the society whose product he is.

It follows that the criminal is not personally answerable for his crimes; blame his slum background, his broken home, his shady companions, or whatever. The criminal, in short, is a “victim,” who should be treated and not punished.

Dr. Samenow, who has spent years dealing with criminals takes a radically different tack: “Criminals cause crime,” he writes, “not bad neighborhoods, inadequate parents, television, schools, drugs, or unemployment. Crime resides within the minds of human beings and is not caused by social conditions. Once we as a society recognize this simple fact, we shall take measures radically different from current ones. To be sure, we shall continue to remedy intolerable social conditions for this is worthwhile in and of itself. But we shall not expect criminals to change because of such efforts.”

Dr. Samenow adds that “Behavior is largely a product of thinking. Everything we do is preceded, accompanied, and followed by thinking. A train cannot fly for it is not so equipped. Similarly, as he is, a criminal is not equipped to be responsible. A drastic alteration must occur, and to accomplish this, a criminal requires help. The criminal must learn to identify and then abandon thinking patterns that have guided his behavior for years. He must be taught new thinking patterns that are self-evident and automatic for responsible people but are totally foreign to him. Short of this occurring, he will continue to commit crimes.”

To alleviate the pervasive and persistent problem of crime, we need to have a realistic and tough-minded view of human nature, criminals and crime. Then we can develop and ira-plement some equally realistic and tough-minded approaches to deal with the problem.


April 1985

comments powered by Disqus


* indicates required
Sign me up for...


April 2014

Around the world, people are struggling to throw off authoritarianism, with deeply mixed results. From Egypt to Venezuela, determined people build networks to overthrow their regimes, but as yet we have not learned to live without Leviathan. In this issue, Michael Malice and Gary Dudney discuss their glimpses inside totalitarian regimes, while Sarah Skwire and Michael Nolan look at how totalitarian regimes grind down the individual--and how individuals fight back. Plus, Jeffrey Tucker identifies a strain in libertarianism that, left unchecked, could reduce even our vibrant movement to something that is analogous to the grim aesthetic of architectural brutalism. The struggle for our lives and freedom is a struggle for beauty; it begins inside each of us.
Download Free PDF