July 25, 2015

"Matt and Sweat weren’t very good criminals. They were blunt-instrument types."

"Unlike, say, Whitey Bulger, they weren’t the kind of criminal who gets away and lives for years off the fat of his crimes. They were the kind who gets caught and pays the price, and then gets caught and pays the price again."
Part of the reason for this is that people who have spent a substantial part of their life behind bars often don’t know how to function on the outside. Everyone knows the famous cases—Gary Gilmore, Jack Abbott—of parolees who commit terrible crimes for no understandable reason soon after getting out. They’re used to life in lockup, where there are rules for everything. Life without ubiquitous rules freaks them out....

It sounds glib to say that Sweat may have wanted to escape, but never really wanted to be free, at least if freedom means what it means to most of us: staying out of prison. But what would Matt and Sweat most likely have done if they had managed to get to Canada or Mexico or even Vermont?

19 comments:

Rusty said...

They would have continued to be what they were. They weren't in prison because they were smart. They were in prison because they were stupid. Changing your behavior is difficult if you're stupid.

Etienne said...
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Etienne said...
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Michael K said...

Many serious criminals are psychopaths and sociopaths and rules and compulsion are necessary to keep them functional. Without the compulsion, they spiral off into more anti-social activities because they have no internal rules of civilization.

tim in vermont said...

If they came to Vermont, they would have two choices: meth head or heroin addict. It all depends on family connections who gets to be a heroin addict here, so they probably would have ended up meth heads dodging the state police instead of heroin addicts living off the dole and getting state paid methadone to hold them over between fixes.

Wince said...

Part of the reason for this is that people who have spent a substantial part of their life behind bars often don’t know how to function on the outside.... Life without ubiquitous rules freaks them out....

I dare say there are people hard at work trying to inculcate from cradle to grave that same dependency on the population outside of prison for their own ends.

William said...

While the author's observations may have some validity regarding Matt and Sweat, it would be erroneous and, frankly, racist to say such things about the black prison population. The psychological profile of these prisoners more closely resembles that of Nelson Mandela than that of Sweat. People who sell drugs for profit and continue to do so despite repeated arrests pose no threat to the community.

Birkel said...

William lost me with whatever the hell he was trying to convey.
Seems unhinged.

William said...

My irony is subtle and nuanced.

mtrobertslaw said...

I think what William was trying to say was that Matt and Sweat were the beneficiaries of white privilege.

holdfast said...

@William

The problem is that the narcotics trade is a rather rough one, and the purveyors are sometimes forced to result to self-help rememedies to deal with unruly clients and deadbeat customers.

Biggie Smalls put it better than I ever could in "The 10 Crack Commandments"

I been in this game for years, it made me a animal
It's rules to this shit, I wrote me a manual
A step by step booklet for you to get
your game on track, not your wig pushed back
Rule nombre uno: never let no one know
how much, dough you hold, cause you know
The cheddar breed jealousy 'specially
if that man fucked up, get your ass stuck up
Number two: never let em know your next move
Don't you know Bad Boys move in silence or violence
Take it from your highness (uh-huh)
I done squeezed mad clips at these cats for they bricks and chips
Number three: never trust no-bo-dy
Your moms'll set that ass up, properly gassed up
Hoodie to mask up, shit, for that fast buck
she be layin in the bushes to light that ass up
Number four: know you heard this before
Never get high, on your own supply
Number five: never sell no crack where you rest at
I don't care if they want a ounce, tell em bounce
Number six: that god damn credit, dead it
You think a crackhead payin you back, shit forget it
Seven: this rule is so underrated
Keep your family and business completely seperated
Money and blood don't mix like two dicks and no bitch
Find yourself in serious shit
Number eight: never keep no weight on you
Them cats that squeeze your guns can hold jobs too
Number nine shoulda been number one to me
If you ain't gettin bags stay the fuck from police (uh-huh)
If niggaz think you snitchin ain't tryin listen
They be sittin in your kitchen, waitin to start hittin
Number ten: a strong word called consignment
Strictly for live men, not for freshmen
If you ain't got the clientele say hell no
Cause they gon want they money rain sleet hail snow
Follow these rules you'll have mad bread to break up
If not, twenty-four years, on the wake up
Slug hit your temple, watch your frame shake up
Caretaker did your makeup, when you pass
Your girl fucked my man Jake up, heard in three weeks
she sniffed a whole half of cake up
Heard she suck a good dick, and can hook a steak up
Gotta go gotta go, more pasta bake up, word up, uhh

Rusty said...

. People who sell drugs for profit and continue to do so despite repeated arrests pose no threat to the community

Every person I know that has been murdered has been murdered over drugs. So right now they aren't a threat to the community.

JCC said...

Although there are of course exceptions, but as a general rule, cops will not lose by underestimating the intelligence of the bad guys. Criminals will demonstrate a certain native slyness perhaps, learned tricks of the trade possibly, certainly sheer meaness and lack of any empathy, but brains? Not too much.

Most criminals also have a serious lack of impulse control, which along with the lack of empathy and total absence of introspection, make them dangerous. Combine this impulsive behavior with stupid and it equals recidivism.

The sometimes-pushed theory of disorganized criminals secretly or unconsciously wishing to go back to the cozy, predictable orderly prison life is pretty much BS I think, save for a very rare case now and then maybe.

Valentine Smith said...

These guys didn't know how to function on the outside before they ever got inside.

averagejoe said...

If they got to Vermont they could have signed up for free Obamacare health insurance with GreenMountainCare- Oh, that's right, they couldn't because it went tits up too! Thanks, Obama! Heckuva job, Barry!

Lewis Wetzel said...

I have a friend who was doing some work at the local DA's office. Not legal work, after-hours remodeling. He snooped through the files they left out. What he found is that 95%+ of the cases referred to the DA were penny-ante misdemeanors and low grade felonies, most of them involving drugs and/or alcohol. Basically people stealing so they could buy drugs, people stealing other peoples' drugs, and people doing doing stupid things when they were drunk (like driving, starting fights, or beating the wife/kids). I suppose its been that way for thousands of years.
If you could stop people from committing those kind of dumb-ass crimes you could lay off most of the police force, lawyers, judges, prison guards, etc.

Mary E. Glynn said...

Every person I know that has been murdered has been murdered over drugs. So right now they aren't a threat to the community.
---------------

Sorry, but drug dealers and drunks do a lot of damage on their way to incarceration and/or death.

Try renting in a town where it is normal for the courts to be processing 5th and 6th DUIs, and driving drunk women "home" from the bars when the bartender calls to report someone too drunk to walk and with no means of funding a taxi.

I wonder if we divered some of our law enforcement resources to mental health facilities and drug/alchohol in-treatment facilities how much better life on the streets would be for working citizens?

JCC said...

@ Terry -
Your percentage is way too high, but you are correct in characterizing the majority of cases. However, "low grade felonies" dosen't do justice to crimes when someone is the victim of theft of, say, their only means of transportation which is underinsured or uninsured. Or someone breaks in and steals the TV and the kids' computer which can't easily be replaced on the parents' salaries when food is more important. "Low grade" is relative, you see, to the victims' life style and income. One person's "non-violent minor crime" is someone else's big deal when you're a working stiff.

@ Mary -
You can't make people accept medical treatment, or agree to routinely take their medications, or go into durg or alcohon rehab. The resources exist for those interested now, but alcoholics will drink, addicts will seek their substance of choice and the mentally ill will consistently stop taking medications which dull the senses and remove the emotional highs. We lost control of the system in the early '70's when society decided that individuals had the freedom of choice about medical treatment for the medical conditions of addiction and mental illness. The high percentage of those suffering mental illness among the voluntarily homeless should be a lesson.

Thorley Winston said...

Your percentage is way too high, but you are correct in characterizing the majority of cases. However, "low grade felonies" dosen't do justice to crimes when someone is the victim of theft of, say, their only means of transportation which is underinsured or uninsured. Or someone breaks in and steals the TV and the kids' computer which can't easily be replaced on the parents' salaries when food is more important. "Low grade" is relative, you see, to the victims' life style and income. One person's "non-violent minor crime" is someone else's big deal when you're a working stiff.


Agreed as the saying goes, poverty doesn’t usually cause crime but crime does often cause poverty. Or at least makes it much worse for the victims who are often impoverished themselves.