Criminogenic Risk Factors
In our last two newsletters, we covered the first and second articles in a series explaining the reasons people re-offend and how they can mitigate that risk. If you have a friend or family member who has been incarcerated, or you have been to jail or are on parole, you owe it to yourself to understand these risks. If you missed the first article – here’s the link.
To recap, here is the list of six dynamic Criminogenic Risk Factors:
- Anti-social network
- Anti-social beliefs
- Family dysfunction
- Drug and/or alcohol addiction
- Poor impulse control
- Lack of career and/or education
In our third article, we’re going to discuss anti-social beliefs and family dysfunction.
What are “anti-social beliefs”? These are beliefs which lead us toward the commission of a crime, dysfunction and unhealthy behaviors. Ascend teaches in depth about this subject, but an example of anti-social beliefs would be as follows:
ANTI-SOCIAL BELIEF: “My child needs diapers. I’m broke. I’ll steal some from K-Mart. They are a big corporation – no one will miss them.” (Short term, short cut thinking)
PRO-SOCIAL BELIEF: “My child will go back into foster care if I get caught stealing. I wouldn’t want someone to steal from me even if I were rich. Stealing from corporations makes the prices go up for all of us. I need to solve this problem another way.”
ANTI-SOCIAL BELIEF: “I would be able to pay my fine if my boss didn’t fire me for being late!”
(Failing to recognize that our tardiness caused our loss of job versus us being victimized by an
PRO-SOCIAL BELIEF: “I am in control of my own destiny. I can solve the problem of being late by
planning better in the future. It is something I am going to work on. I need to call or visit the
court clerk’s office to see what options there are for me to deal with my fine while I look for
These are simplistic examples. Ascend goes deeper with our students by teaching the science behind criminal thinking styles.
While it may be easy to see how anti-social friends/family members and anti-social beliefs predict crime, the link between family dysfunction is not immediately clear. It becomes apparent, however, when we start to follow the path of destruction that is often caused by family dysfunction:
John Doe has been out of the gang lifestyle and out of the drug trade for 12 years. He obtained his truck driving license 10 years ago, purchased a home, married a pro-social woman and had children. He wanted to provide more security for the family, so he started working more hours and purchased a rental home. John Doe is doing fantastic!
All of his work hours begin to put a strain on his marriage. Instead of going to counseling or working through the problems, he ignores them and simply works more hours. The tension in the home worsens, until his wife eventually files for divorce. John Doe is devastated.
As he watches his family life fall apart, he begins drinking again to deal with the depression, in spite of the fact that he was a recovering alcoholic. A neighbor of his, who he has previously avoided, sees that he is living alone and invites him over for dinner.
The neighbor is active in the gang lifestyle and John Doe sees the red flags but believes that if he just has drinks with the neighbor once in a while that things will be okay. The neighbor eventually learns of John Doe’s former gang life and begins asking him to transport some drugs for him. John Doe tells the neighbor many times that he is not into that lifestyle anymore.
One night, after an argument with his ex-wife over the phone, his neighbor calls. The Neighbor is bugging him again to transport drugs. The gang needs a driver to pick up a one-time shipment of drugs. John wants to get the neighbor off his back, so he blurts out his cousin’s name and says to contact him. John Doe’s cousin is active in the gang lifestyle. John Doe hoped this would be the last of his problems with his neighbor.
Months later, federal authorities show up at John Doe’s house with an arrest warrant and arrest him for conspiracy to distribute drugs. It turns out that the neighbor’s phone was wiretapped and that John Doe walked himself into the conspiracy when he gave a name of a contact that could transport the drugs.
Where did John Doe go wrong? He did not recognize and heal four big glaring criminogenic risk factors:
- Anti-Social Network,
• Allowing his active gang member neighbor into his social circle
- Anti-Social Beliefs,
• Believing that he could associate with his neighbor without getting caught up in any of his neighbor’s gang lifestyle or crime
- Alcohol Addiction,
• Returning to alcohol as a coping mechanism, and
- Family Dysfunction
• Avoiding dealing with the problems at home through counseling or problem solving
But how can John Doe be arrested for one conversation in which he basically said we would not be a part of a crime? Welcome to the law of conspiracy. Don’t think it can happen? Ascend students can tell you exactly how the law of conspiracy will wrap John Doe up into this crime even when he intended on avoiding any illegal behavior.
Family dysfunction as a criminogenic risk factor can be explained in a simpler way.
John Doe has a drug problem. He gets released from jail and has nowhere to go but his mother’s house. His mom is an alcoholic who refuses to seek treatment. She also pesters John Doe to drink with her all the time. John Doe does not believe he is an alcoholic, but alcohol does lead him to crave meth and he struggles with meth addiction. His mother knows this but continues to drink around him and tell him he needs to drink with her to be ‘fun’. This parent-child relationship is very clearly dysfunctional on multiple levels. It is easy to see how John Doe will eventually begin drinking and return to meth use.
In our next newsletter, we’ll discuss risk factors 4, 5 and 6: Drug and/or alcohol addiction, Poor impulse control and Lack of career and/or education. Understanding your risk factors and how to avoid them is the key to enjoying a law-abiding life.