Interviewing: Helpful Hints
There's a harsh truth to face. You don't interview a parolee the same way you do other crooks. They are not going to tell you what you want to know cause your the good guy. There is a much better chance that you will get what you want if you keep a few things in mind. The days of " you came in here with information and good looks and you ain't leaving with both" are over with. Convicts are products of their environment. There are two things that control their lives in the joint; the simple things and paranoia. You may get further with a candy bar than you will with a plea bargain. There is a certain atmosphere that must be created before you will get what you want and it is up to you to create it. Props can help you do that.
Before we talk about the props and how to use them, lets talk about some do's and don'ts when interviewing parolees.
Usually by this time he's starring at the rap sheet and the cassette sitting on top of the recorder. He says something profound like " Hey man I don't talk on tape". I'll say something like " oh ya well I don't tape my interviews". He says " what's the tape recorder for ?" I'll say "you didn't send this to me?" Holding the tape up. He says no and I'll say "well man this tapes got your voice all over it, you sure you didn't send it to me?" OOOPPPS , he thinks. Who did I talk to that was wired. Good by calm, hello paranoia. He also tells me that he ain't going to clear any cases for the detectives and I say we'll talk about that later. Apprehension is also a good thing. By this time I'm munching on the chocolate bar and I turn and point at the rap sheet and ask him if he knows what the circles are for. He says no and I ask if he has ever played baseball and how many strikes are in that game. He now catches my drift and we talk a while about the three strikes law. The amount of circles determines the amount of paranoia. Take the rap down and show it to him. Show him the circled convictions. Reality, what a concept.
In a short amount of time you have used the environment that you have created to motivate him to realize that talking is his best bet. Appeal to what he is familiar with. The simple things and paranoia. You got, he wants. That's how you bounce the bait. When you set the hook and start talking about what you want is up to you. Always remember; if the lips are moving, their lying! Next time we'll talk about tats, tacs, ink, tattoos. Until then as usual , be careful.
How do I conduct a safe and effective interview with a parolee?
So when did you GATE OUT ?
What was your ISSUE?
What was the TERM ?
What was the original BEEF ?
8 TO THE GATE ?
Did ya catch any CHRONOS inside ?
Any AD SEG or SHU time ?
How many points do ya have ?
Did ya TIP UP inside ?
Well, just like the title says , What did he say ? Well get to that later. First , lets talk about the first few minutes of your contact with a parolee, how to get off on the right foot and start taking charge. The use of slang terms can help you do that. The first thing you have to understand is the type of crook you are dealing with. Whether he is a dope dealer or a thief , he is first a parolee. There are two types. The inmate and the convict. The inmate is usually easy because he is too busy sniveling to give you any challenging problems. The convict is a different story.
The convict takes pride in who he is and he is not at all intimidated by us or who we are or what job assignment we have. Whether you wear a uniform or a pony tail , you are still the MAN. He is used to dealing with us no matter what form we come in and he is good at what he does. He is a predator. Hes sitting on the wire , looking at the field and waiting for lunch to move. He is confrontational and he is looking to take advantage of soft spots in your armor. First and foremost , DONT MAKE IT PERSONAL. Keep it business. Next , start building some rapport and respect. I dont mean take him home for Christmas , I mean show him that you know what you are doing. Also remember that a true convict has self respect. So if you get out of your unit looking like 10 pounds of potatoes in a 5 pound sack that's exactly how your going to get treated. Hes going to figure that you dont have any respect for yourself, why should he.One of the easiest and quickest ways to establish this rapport and respect is to use slang terms in your initial questions. Dope dealers use slang and so do convicts. By using and understanding slang you can build a rapport and also communicate.
From the beginning you need to find out about the convicts history. That is where hes been and what hes done. Keep in mind also that you're dealing with a person who, on an average, has an 8th grade education. Dont make the mistake of thinking this makes them stupid. It just means they are uneducated. So when you question them about their state prison time, ask the questions starting from the first time they went to prison up to the present. Some of the info that you want to know is ; Where did they do their time , for what type of crime and what happened to them inside. During this first phase of the contact start using slang. For example; If I want to ask a convict about his first time he went to prison Ill say Where did you go for your first trip? If I want to know the type of crime Ill say What was your commitment offense ? And if I want to know about what went on inside the joint Ill say something like Did you catch any chronos ?or Did you catch any 115s or 128s ? These are disciplinary write ups. 115s being the most serious and commonly involve violence. If I want to know when he got out I would say When did you gate out ? If I want to know when he gets off parole I would ask When do you top out ? And so on. One of the large points to be made is if you at least sound like you know what your talking about , you will probably get less of a challenge. There are hundreds of prison slang terms and just like dope slang they change. Some last and others are not used as much. Here are some good old standbys that have survived the test of TIME.
O.K. , like I said in the beginning What did he say ? Go back to the first paragraph and lets find out. So when did you GATE OUT ( get released ). I GATED ( got released ) last Tuesday from P BAY ( Pelican Bay State Prison ) What was your ISSUE ( crime ) I was a PAL ( parolee at large ) with two DIRTY BOTTLES ( positive urine for drugs ) What was the TERM ( sentence ) A BULLET ( one year ) What was the original BEEF ( crime ) I caught a sales beef for 16 months. 8 TO THE GATE ( half time for working ) Ya 8 TO THE GATE. Did you catch any CHRONOS( institutional write ups ) inside ? Ya , I caught some 128s ( less serious offenses ) and a couple of 115s ( most serious offenses ) Any AD SEG ( administrative segregation ) or SHU ( security housing unit ) time ? Ya , one SHU term. How many points do you have ? Im sittin on 53. Did ya TIP UP ( affiliate with a gang or group ) inside ? I got approached , but I didnt TIP (together in prison ) OK let me see your INK ( tattoos ).
Besides learning a ton about this convict we were able to show him that we know what we are doing. He starts to feel a little more comfortable in dealing with us and we are well on our way to getting the info that we want from this guy. To get the info we want takes good interview techniques. You dont interview convicts the same way you interview other crooks. So thats what well talk about next time. Until then as usual, be careful.
For more info contact:
Sergeant Ken Whitley,