Mind Hunter

mind hunterMind Hunter: Inside the FBI’s Elite Serial Crime Unit by John Douglas and Mark Olshaker, 4/5

This account of former F.B.I. special agent John Douglas’ involvement in the development of criminal profiling is fascinating, if [understandably] sensationalistic.  It is rare for a book of this ilk to display satisfactory substance, so I was surprised to find that Douglas obviously had more successful cases in his repertoire than room to include them.  He uses numerous examples to demonstrate the power of profiling to predict criminal characteristics and develop clever strategies for their capture and conviction.

Prior to reading this, my only exposure to behavioral science and criminal profiling was watching some 174 episodes of Criminal Minds, so I was curious to see how “real life” would compare.  Shockingly, many of the stories told in this book are even more unbelievably dramatic and impressive than those written for TV.  Much of the vocabulary and basic ideas present in the TV show seem to be authentic, though it was interesting to learn that profiling is used frequently to help convict criminals, not just capture them (the focus of the show).

Something that came up several times in the book was Douglas’ positive opinion of the death penalty, criticism of the parole system and doubt that certain criminals can ever be rehabilitated.  These are certainly not politically correct opinions nowadays but, whatever the moral/ethical issues, it is impossible to not take seriously the point of view of someone who has witnessed human depravity and violence on a scale thankfully not experienced by the vast majority of opinion-holders.

I was moved and inspired by Douglas’ concluding comments on the subject of the problem of violent crime in the U.S.  He thinks that the most effective solution will be a grassroots one, since “crime is a moral problem…it can only be resolved on a moral level” (374).  It is a powerful observation that “in all my years of research and dealing with violent offenders, I’ve never yet come across one who came from what I would consider a good background and functional, supportive family unit” (375).  Finally, I couldn’t help thinking of 1 Corinthians 13 (and indeed, the whole message of the gospel) when Douglas states that “what I truly believe is that along with more money and police and prisons, what we most need more of is love.  This is not being simplistic; it’s at the very heart of the issue” (375).

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