Concept of the Month -- December 2013

The Criminal Does Learn from Experience

It is often said that criminals are incapable of learning from experience. They dig themselves into one hole after another by their own irresponsibility. This occurs in so many aspects of their lives, including self-care, as many neglect their health, finances, and environment in which they live. Offenders cycle in and out of courtrooms, jails, substance abuse programs, and prisons.The high recidivism rate is cited as providing evidence of a failure to learn from consequences.

To understand people who live life seemingly oblivious to the needs of other people, it is important to understand the world from their point of view. The fact is that criminals are not incapable of learning lessons from life's experience. Rather, they do not learn what we want them to learn. Instead, they learn from experiences that advance objectives that are important to them. For example, experience guides them as they plan and execute new crimes. After a criminal is apprehended, he may chide himself for not having been slicker, bolder, or more cautious. He takes this into account in the future.

Just as responsible people are accustomed to learning from the past, criminals benefit from experience in ways that are important to their self-interest. They may not learn to manage money because that is unimportant to them. There is no need to budget when one is constantly counting on a "big score", reaping fortunes from crimes such as robbery, embezzlement, extortion, drug deals or even through legal means, such as gambling.

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