My caseload is comprised of men who were convicted of criminal offenses and then sentenced to prison. Off the top of my head, here is a list of some of those crimes: first degree murder, second degree murder, voluntary manslaughter, involuntary manslaughter, assault with a deadly weapon with force to inflict great bodily injury, mayhem, rape, forced oral copulation, lewd and lascivious with child under 14, robbery, burglary, DUI, possession of a controlled substance, transportation and sales of a controlled substance, possession of a firearm by an ex-felon, pandering, evading, aiding and abetting, receiving stolen property, grand theft auto, petty theft, and terrorist threats. These are just the ones that first come to mind; I know I’m forgetting others. Oh, and a lot of these guys are either active or ex-gang members.
I think you have to have certain qualities in order to effectively interact with this particular population. I grew up in a household with four brothers and no sisters, and I tend to have a bit of the criminal mindset myself. I cuss like a sailor, and sometimes I just got no time for your bullshit.
Back in 2011, I had to complete an initial intake interview with a new arrival who was clearly having a bad day. He was rude and snarky in his responses, and even though I was trying very hard to maintain professionalism, I really wasn’t in the mood to put up with him. So I said, “You know what? Clearly this is not a good time for you. I’m going to end this interview, and you can come back another time. I’ll reschedule you.”
I watched the surprise take over his face, and then he was contrite. He said, “I’m sorry. I’m being a jerk. No, let’s start over. It’s just been a really hard week for me. I got some bad news the other day.”
Sometimes I don’t filter the words that come out of my mouth, and this was one of those times. I said exactly what was on my mind. “Okay. So you’re not usually an asshole.”
I bring up that story because that same guy had an appointment with me this afternoon. Now, we have a really good rapport. During our session today, he brought up the first time he came to my office and asked me if I remembered that incident.
“I’m going to tell you something, Doc,” he said. “I’ve had so much more respect for you ever since then. You called me out on my shit.”
I was glad to hear that. Because sometimes it is a pretty risky intervention to call a convicted felon an asshole.
P.S. Don’t worry. It was only that one time.
That I can remember.