On Sunday, I wrote about the case of Daniel Giddings, a violent criminal, recently paroled, who executed a Philadelphia cop.
Yesterday, the governor of Pennsylvania, Ed Rendell, requested a “top-to-bottom” review of Philadelphia’s parole process. And, the governor put a moratorium on paroles until the review is complete.
John S. Goldkamp, head of Temple University’s criminal justice department, got the assignment of conducting the parole system review. According to an article in today’s Philadelphia Inquirer, Goldkamp plans to “focus on how other states release violent offenders into society and whether those practices can be used here.”
Professor Goldkamp, let me save you some trouble. All the parole board needs to do is learn how to spot the psychopaths.
Psychopathy Checklist (Revised)
All candidates for parole should be evaluated using the Psychopathy Checklist (Revised), developed by Dr. Robert Hare. The evaluation tool is designed exactly for the purpose at hand—to determine the likelihood that a criminal, especially a violent criminal, will reoffend.
Professionals trained to use the checklist evaluate the individual on 20 items. Here are the items:
- Glibness/superficial charm
- Grandiose sense of self-worth
- Need for stimulation/proneness to boredom
- Pathological lying
- Lack of remorse or guilt
- Shallow affect (emotions)
- Callous; lack of empathy
- Parasitic lifestyle
- Poor behavioral controls; aggressiveness
- Promiscuous sexual behavior
- Early behavior problems
- Lack of realistic, long-term goals
- Failure to accept responsibility for own actions
- Many short-term marital relationships
- Juvenile delinquency
- Revocation of conditional release
- Criminal versatility
History of a killer
Here’s what we know about Daniel Giddings, the killer, based on news accounts:
Giddings was first arrested for violent assault when he was 10. He lived much of his teenage years in juvenile facilities, where on multiple occasions he assaulted the staff, sending some to the hospital. When out of jail, he sold drugs on the corner, raised pit bulls for fighting, gambled, and fathered three children.
Then in an attempted carjacking, the victim gave Giddings $100 but didn’t want to give him the car. Giddings stuck a gun through the window of the car and shot the guy in the knees. That landed him in jail, where he ran a prison gang, was charged with disciplinary problems 27 times and spent 537 days in solitary confinement.
On the day that he shot the cop, he was riding in the car driven by a woman he recently met in a nightclub. She had no idea that he was a criminal who had just been paroled, was packing a .45, and was wanted by the police. She thought she’d met a great guy.
The news articles didn’t say the Giddings was a pathological liar, manipulative, and had a grandiose sense of self, but I’ll bet they all applied. My guess is that if this criminal was professionally evaluated using the PCL-R, he’d score very high on psychopathic traits.
Professor Goldkamp, psychopaths do not change. They cannot be rehabilitated. When you let them out of jail, there will be trouble, including dead cops.
Jail costs too much
According to a knowledgeable source in Philadelphia, the back story to the problem is the skyrocketing cost of keeping people in jail. Prisons are full, and officials have been dumping offenders in order to control costs. The only way to solve the problem is to build more prisons, which would require raising taxes, which politicians are afraid to do.
So the parole board unloads prisoners and hope nothing really bad happens. In the case of Daniel Giddings, hope wasn’t enough.
The financial realities of the situation make it all the more important that candidates for parole are evaluated properly. Officials need to figure out who is really bad, beyond redemption, and use their scarce resources to keep them in jail.