As I Live and Breathe

A Perspective from a Prison Psychologist

Author: Marla Patterson
Pages: 232
Language: English
Publication date: 01/01/2019
6.99 €
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A female psychologist describes her experience working maximum security inmates

By focusing on her experience working in the Federal Bureau of Prisons, a female psychologist gives an account of the world inside the system. Prisons are highly structured environments with specific policies and procedures to ensure consistent orderliness, yet simultaneously there exists an ever-present underlying turbulence that threatens to erupt at any time. At higher security prisons these eruptions occur all too often, and can range from absurd behaviors, like self-administered liposuction, to serious assaults and gruesome murders. As I Live and Breathe provides a glimpse into the federal prison system and highlights some of the challenges correctional workers face when tasked with managing extreme criminals in a dangerous and unpredictable world.

I didn’t always believe in the existence of these convoluted examples of our species; these individuals with “as if personalities,” acting as if they are human. There was a time when I believed criminal behavior was primarily due to circumstances. I believed many of these people had a poor upbringing, had developed a drug addiction due to biochemical unluckiness, had made a series of bad decisions, or were the victims of social injustices. I also believed all inmates would benefit from the opportunity for self-improvement. If treated with respect, anyone could become a productive member of society, even if their society was limited to the world inside the walls of a prison. Many people have this same perspective—the fundamental belief that people are good or, at a minimum, can become good, given the right set of circumstances. Managing maximum-security inmates—those that are generally described as the “worst of the worst”—changed my view. These inmates don’t respond to basic correctional interventions; yet, they still have to be managed by correctional staff.

“…a heartfelt, dynamic testimonial to a great career in a difficult field…personal, insightful…gives a clear illustration of the dangers of working inside a prison…”—1st Lt. Gary F. Cornelius, Deputy Sheriff, Retired, Fairfax County (VA), Adjunct Faculty: George Mason University.

“…During my tenure as Warden at USP Marion I quickly learned to trust advice and insight from Dr. Patterson…Dr. Patterson has captured the essence of how corrections changes staff…”—J. Walton, Warden, Marion, Retired.
“…realistic picture of life inside Federal prison facilities…an honest description of a bizarre culture, comprised of psychopaths, pedophiles, and other sex offenders, substance abusers, and those suffering from an array of mental health and personality disorders... —Dr. Paul M. Lucko, Chair, Department of Community Leadership and Human Services, Murray State University
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Marla Patterson, Ph.D. retired from the Federal Bureau of Prisons in 2014 after working at the agency for nearly 24 years. She started working for the prison system as an intern at the Federal Correctional Institution (FCI) in Ft. Worth, Texas, worked seven years as a drug treatment specialist at FCI Seagoville, Texas, and in 1999 started working at the United States Penitentiary (USP) Leavenworth. In 2002, she transferred to USP Marion where she was promoted to Chief Psychologist in 2004. Dr. Patterson received a master’s degree from Bradley University and a doctoral degree from the University of North Texas. Since retiring, she teaches part-time, travels and enjoys time with her family.

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