Book Review: Inside the Criminal Mind by Stanton E. Samenow

There are numerous works available that explore the many facets of criminality and the topic of criminal psychology is particularly popular.  However, most books that analyze this dark niche of human behavior tend to focus on the many environmental factors that play into the development of the monsters that walk among us.  Inside the Criminal Mind, written by Stanton E. Samenow, provides an overview of how criminals operate rather than how they are created; in fact, this particular book suggests that the environment is hardly to blame and that criminals choose to behave in a certain manner.  Many of the traits of this behavior are evident in criminal personalities ranging from violent street thugs to white color embezzlers.

The obvious, and endless, controversy raised by this book is that of nature versus nurture: are criminals made or simply born that way?  Samenow leans heavily towards the later.  As an individual who believes heavily in individual agency and personal responsibility, I tend towards Samenow’s point of view.  However, I think it is a stretch to completely disregard environment. When analyzing the conditions in which many violent street criminals grow up one might argue that the true miracle is when any such person turns out to be an upstanding citizen.

Regardless, of all the books I have read on criminality, this is among the best for people like us to read.  What do I mean by “people like us?”  You are most likely like me, an individual that is not a psychologist, but a person invested in preparedness and self-defense, and understanding enough about the criminal mind so as to be better able to recognize it tends to be what we want.  This book does just that.  Wherever you fall on the nature versus nurture argument, there are consistent traits in the criminal mentality that this book well illustrates. 

One thing this book makes abundantly clear is that the criminal actor (be it a violent thug, a rapist, or a corporate white-collar fraud) manifests consistent traits of devious manipulation.  The desire to control others is most often present.  Likewise, a lack of acceptance for responsibility of actions is also a hallmark.  No matter how despicable the criminal act, the criminal blames others for his or her troubles.  A lack of empathy is, likewise, a constant.  Samenow uses many examples from his clinical background to illustrate these traits.

Inside the Criminal Mind is an excellent read for those who don’t care why a monster became a monster, but wish to better understand how the monster thinks and operates.  Highly recommended.

You can buy this book on Amazon here.

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