Background to my interest in teaching children with autism

PSYCHOTHERAPY BEYOND THE FRINGE, continued

Now we can return to Doug Quirk’s “Psychotherapy Beyond the Fringe.”

A Subliminal Criminal

            Some years later, now working with an offender population, Felicity’s ‘what if’ was destined to bear another kind of fruit. A new ‘chain’ of inmates had just arrived, and Felicity had heard that one of its men was a school teacher who had been convicted of several counts of sexual molestation of his young male students. Frankly, Felicity’s interest in this man was mainly that he wanted to implement some additional self-help educational programmes for the inmates, and he hoped this man would assist in that enterprise. He realized, of course, that there would have to be some inducement to acquire the interest of a person who had recently been subjected to the justice system’s unjust way of undermining an offender’s self‑respect.

            This way of talking about and dealing with a criminal offender might seem a bit strange to some people. And it probably is. However, we have already implied that Felicity usually understands things wrongly, and this is probably just another example of his usual practice. You may be amused by some of his other wrong-headed notions on the topic of criminal offenders.

            Most people think that the purpose of a jail is to protect the community from those who are apt to perform harmful criminal acts. Felicity thinks the purpose of a jail is to protect the offenders from the offended community which might want to tear them apart. Most people think the purpose of a sentence is 1) to punish the offender and 2) to deter him and others from repeating criminal actions. Since the research evidence seems to indicate that sentences don’t work to achieve either of those purposes, Felicity prefers to think of the purpose of a sentence as one of ensuring that the offender is physically available to attend ‘corrective’ correctional programmes to fix whatever has caused his naughty actions. Finally, since, as a result of plea-bargaining, many offenders seem to be convicted and sentenced for something they didn’t do, Felicity thinks that, in spite of his conviction, the person merits the same respect everybody else merits. Of course, he deserves disrespect for any bad thing he did do. However, in those cases where it was never proved that he did it, he ought not to be blamed for that either. It’s clear that Felicity gets everything all screwed up. His excuse is based on the flimsy grounds that psychologists are supposed to be odd.

            Anyway, in order to find out what he would have to do to earn this man’s help, Felicity called him to his office. The man who appeared at Felicity’s door might have been Alvin with a few years added to his life in which his hair had time to thin out and in which his clothing had time to be changed into an inmate uniform. However, he was not Alvin. His name was Bart. He was not at all like most of the other inmates with whom Felicity was by now familiar. He stood with an erect posture, met Felicity’s stare, moved with grace on light feet, and appeared almost impudent in his quick warmth and cheerful, outgoing manner. He did not even take the time for Felicity to introduce himself or to set the course of the interview. Before he had yet seated himself, he greeted Felicity with a “hi” and a broad smile and told Felicity that he had heard about him in the ‘bucket’. He said that he had wanted to meet Felicity as soon as he arrived, both to see if he could get some help with his problems and to see what a male shrink with a female name looked like. Although he looked as though he knew he was being a bit cheeky with a new acquaintance, he added that Felicity looked just exactly as he should, bearing no resemblance whatsoever to either any normal male or any female he had met.

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