An Interview with Professor Russell Eisenman: Second Edition – Better than the First?

Apr 23, 2012 by

Michael F. Shaughnessy –

  1. Professor Eisenman, I have just received the second edition of Creativity, Mental Illness and Crime. What changes have been made since the first edition?

I added three new chapters. Chapter 17, “Intelligent Behavior in Cats,” shows that cats (and by extension, other animals) engage in intelligent behavior, not just rote learning. It shows how my daughter’s two cats, Maxwell and Thimble, manipulated us to get what they wanted. Chapter 18, “How We Think: Narratives,” shows that we may think in certain ways that often occur and probably limit our thinking. The three ways occur in this rigid order: things being all right, things not being all right, and some improvement (not necessarily a solution but at least an improvement). For example, one may think of a marriage, then conflict in the marriage, and then some partial solution, such as compromise or divorce, or something else that deals with the conflict and makes it better. And, Chapter 19, “Conflict and Agreement on Sexual Attitudes of Hispanic Male and Female College Students” shows similarity and disagreement about sex of Hispanic males vs. Hispanic females. The chapter also compares sexual attitudes of Hispanics (males and females combined) vs. Non-Hispanics.

I also made some minor changes to a few of the other chapters in the book, such as pointing out in an Afterword to chapter 16, “Life in the Penal Colony,” that some of the chapter was originally written as fiction, although almost all of the chapter is true. I point out that there was no escape from the prison by Billy, but it is, nevertheless true that I was told to falsify my assessment report on him. In reality, it was not to cover up about his escape, but to justify sending this very emotionally disturbed prisoner to a nontreatment program, because he was causing so much trouble for us. I thought that a treatment program was the exact place he should be, but too many people were fed up with the problems he caused and had him sent to a tough, nontreatment prison.

2) It seems that we continually hear about criminal and violent behavior in the news and newspapers. Is it actually increasing or are we more aware of it?

One the one hand, crime is going down according to the statistics, so part of hearing about it is our increased awareness of crime via the media. Exciting or vivid things grab out attention and are good for ratings or sales. On the other hand, though, I think there is a lot of terrible crime going on. The USA is a very dangerous place to live, in my opinion. Some other nations may be more dangerous, but that does not mean it is safe in the USA. Even with the crime rate declining there is still a real danger of being robbed, raped, killed, etc., more so in some neighborhoods than others, but it can occur anywhere.

3) Recently I heard about some six year old child being taken away in handcuffs by the police. Do you think this is a case of childhood schizophrenia or something else?

It is hard to know, without knowing more specifics about the individuals involved, especially the child. Children are very smart and learn early on how to get what they want. Perhaps they build on their inborn temperaments, so that a very emotionally-prone child will act stronger and more emotional than a more even-tempered child. I recall a tantrum my daughter threw on the sidewalk near my home, when she was about 5 years old, because she was tired of driving her tricycle and wanted me to carry her and the tricycle home. She was so loud and it lasted so long that cars slowed down to see what was going on. In the end, I carried both home.

4) What about drugs in the schools? Is there more than ever and could this contribute to crime?

Drugs definitely contribute to crime. They sometimes distort judgment and also some people will commit crimes to get money for drugs.

Drugs are readily available in schools and have been for many years. I have two chapters, 5 and 6, about drugs in our schools. Whether drugs are more or less available than, say, 10 or 20 years ago is hard to say, but if a child wants them, they are there and students know how to get them.

On pages 50-57 I provide massive amounts of data about drug usage in the USA. I present it in a very readable way, I think.

5) Many mentally ill end up in prison. Is this the best place for them? Do they really get any “ treatment “?

Prison is a horrible place for the mentally ill, as I show in my book. Chapter 9 is about “Mistreatment of the Mentally Ill in a Prison Treatment Program.” It was a big mistake to close the mental hospitals. As a result, prisons have become the place that many mentally ill people are sent. They get very limited help there and are exploited horribly by other prisoners. The big hospitals were seen as inhumane and costly, but the alternative is worse: the mentally ill in prison or homeless on the streets, not taking their medications.

I worked in a prison treatment program for youthful offenders, but treatment in prison is very rare. Most prisoners receive no mental health treatment at all.

6) First of all, who is David Duke and what does he have to do with your book?

David Duke is a famous racist–a former head of the Ku Klux Klan– who used to run for various political offices in Louisiana. He was elected to the Louisiana House of Representatives, and almost won a U. S. Senate seat, receiving more than 50% of the White vote. He also put up a strong run for Governor of Louisiana but lost. He now makes speeches, has a racist web site, and sells books advocating white racism, hatred of Blacks and Jews, denying the Holocaust, etc.

I once taught in Louisiana for several years. I find Duke very interesting, especially the fact that so many whites in Louisiana liked him, given his KKK background. In chapter 3, “Student Attitudes Toward David Duke Before and After Seeing the Film ‘Who is David Duke?’ ” I show that many Louisiana college students still liked him even when his racist and KKK past were exposed.

7) Most practicing psychologists know about the link of impulsivity to attention deficit and hyperactivity. How is it linked to crime?

Most of the prisoners I worked with were impulsive, which led to crime. And, interestingly, most of them seemed to have had Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) in school, and could not sit still and listen to the teacher. That set them up to be failures in the school system, to hate authority, and to rebel and commit crimes.

8) Do gangs seem to contribute to criminal behavior? Is it that these individuals have no outlet for their creativity?

Many of the prisoners I worked with were gang members, as I write about in the book. And, gang membership these days is very anti-social and definitely leads to crime. Even if a good kid entered a gang because he was scared of being hurt by them, as occurred to one youth I worked with, he will soon do terrible things because that is what the gang demands. By the way, many kids enter gangs not because they are intimidated but because they like the anti-social nature of the gang. It can be fun to rob, kill, etc.

Some gang kids are no doubt creative in various ways, but I do not think that creativity primarily explains why kids enter gangs. I think gangs are a substitute for family, with so many families, especially poverty families, neglecting their kids.

Most of the prisoners I worked with seemed to be low in creativity, as I point out in my first chapter “Creativity in Prisoners: Conduct Disorders and Psychotics.” It is likely that some criminals are creative, especially in the domain of crime, but many are not. Many seem rigid, low in IQ, and unable to figure out how to be anything other than a criminal.

9) Where can interested clinicians get a copy of your book?

Contact the publisher Kendall Hunt, either at their web site or phone them at 800 228-0810. It costs only $37. Also, try the usual book places such as Amazon.com, etc. Be sure to get the 2nd edition, not the 1st edition.

10) What have I neglected to ask?

Well, you could have asked about other chapters I wrote, such as teaching abstinence, who gets drug education in the schools?, the nature of impulsivity, sex addiction, and more. But, I think you did a great job of asking questions, so let’s leave the other stuff as a surprise for the reader when they get the book.

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