This was my first thesis. I know the topic I chose seems long and boring; however, stalkers with personality disorders, especially class B disorders, have the highest recidivism rate of any other stalker out there. I felt it was a great topic for my Crisis Intervention class. This would fit the idea of transformative justice.
Reducing Recidivism in Stalkers Diagnosed with Class “B” Personality Disorders
Reagen Dandridge Desilets
Trident Technical College
13UR CRJ218 Crisis Intervention (W01)
June 30, 2013
Arrest and imprisonment is not a significant deterrent for stalkers, in particular those diagnosed with Class “B” personality disorders; therefore, other interventions need to be available to try and stop recidivism and protect victims. Another goal to aspire to achieve would be to improve the quality of life for both victim and stalker. The role of the criminal justice system may be able to be expanded from primarily just jail or prison time and fines to include other interventions based on other successes shown in previous studies. These other interventions can include mental health care, social work, community and substance abuse programs, and more.
Keywords: Stalking, stalkers, stalker, personality disorders, Class “B” personality disorders, recidivism in stalking, recidivism, obsessional harassment, harassment
Reducing Recidivism in Stalkers Diagnosed with Class “B” Personality Disorders
Stalking, in the criminal justice scope, generally can be defined as any behavior that is harassing but also presents a credible threat to the victim (Mullen & Pathé, 2002). It was initially thought to affect primarily the famous (such as actress and murder victim Rebecca Shaeffer); however, it eventually began to encompass many other offender-victim relationships, such as former intimates, family members, co-workers, acquaintances, strangers, and more. Most states have established laws regarding stalking and even harassment.
South Carolina, like most states, has laws where it defines different degrees of harassment and stalking to help in establishing punishment and corrections actions (South Carolina Code of Laws: SC 16-3-1700). The penalties for stalking and harassment in South Carolina are primarily fines and/or imprisonment that vary with specific charges. The only mention of mental health intervention is that a judge can order an evaluation and treatment plan after conviction and before sentencing, but it is not a requirement (South Carolina Code of Laws: SC 16-3-1740).
The question is will sanctions and corrections currently in the Code of Laws greatly reduce the chance of recidivism? Typically speaking prison time, as well as other criminal justice injunctions such as protective orders and fines, does not greatly reduce recidivism. The media is filled with stories of how a guy gunned down his former girlfriend after she got a protective order against him, or of a celebrity that has had to have one crazed fan arrested more than once, or of a disgruntled ex-employee destroying property or “going postal” after having been physically removed and banned from the property. As we see that jail or prison time has done nothing to stop some of these stalkers, it is clear that further interventions may need to become a better focus in regards to those convicted of stalking and harassment. In order to consider what interventions may be appropriate, it may be best to start the focus on those most prone to repeat offending.
Rosenfeld (Jun., 2003) has studied the number of stalkers with various psychiatric disorders as well as recidivism rates. 81.1% of those studied were diagnosed with some sort of psychiatric disorder. They found that 36.5% had a personality disorder (52.1% of this subgroup had a Class “B” personality disorder), 17.2% had schizophrenia, 15.6% had delusional disorders (erotomanic or persecutory type), and 11.8% had mood disorders.
Out of those Rosenfeld (Jun., 2003) studied, he found that nearly half, 49%, reoffended. 80% of those that reoffended did so within a year of their first arrest. Others that did not reoffend within the first year were at risk of recidivism that averaged almost 72 months before reoffending. Out of his sample, 50% of those with a personality disorder reoffended and 29.2% of those with a Class “B” personality disorder also reoffended. So, while the percentage of stalkers diagnosed with any personality disorder isn’t the majority of stalkers, their recidivism rates are higher compared to other stalkers not diagnosed with a personality disorder. Recidivism was especially high when the stalker had both a personality disorder and a substance abuse problem. In fact, nearly all those studied with both a personality disorder and substance abuse did reoffend during the study period.
While, overall, these numbers may seem better on paper, helping the public to settle feelings of fear and hysteria that may come with stalking cases (fearing violence and re-offense), the victims of those that do reoffend still have to suffer. Another study points to an alarming fact that, in those stalking cases where the stalker has a personality disorder, they latch on to a casual acquaintance more than an intimate partner/ex-partner or a stranger (Dennison, Aug., 2007). There is no way of being able to know who one of these stalkers may target and why. Unfortunately, the only ways to try and successfully intervene are through reactive methods, reacting to the offender’s previous and current actions, and not preventative. Reactive methods victims may take to try and protect themselves range from learning to fight and to use weapons, to quitting a job, to moving, and even going so far as to change their identities completely (Mullen & Pathé, 2002).
Personality disorders have no known cause though theories range from life experiences to biological predisposition or a combination of both (Personality Disorders, © 2013). The symptoms can be easily recognized in adolescents and young adults but they seem to be less noticeable by middle age. People diagnosed with personality disorders seem to be more rigid, inflexible, and tend to have a very narrow world view. Mental Health America (Personality Disorders, © 2013) lists three classes of personality disorders with a brief description of each:
- Cluster A: Odd or eccentric behavior
- Cluster B: Dramatic, emotional or erratic behavior
- Cluster C: Anxious fearful behavior
Class “A” disorders are Schizoid personality disorder, Paranoid personality disorder, and Schizotypal personality disorder. Class “B” disorders include Antisocial/Psychopath personality disorder, Borderline personality disorder, and Narcissistic personality disorder. Class “C” disorders have Avoidant personality disorder, Dependent personality disorder, and Obsessive-Compulsive personality disorder (Personality Disorders, © 2013).
In Class “B” disorders, while each category differs, the basic premise is that they all have a hard time being able to reason through behaviors and tend to act before thinking things through logically. There may also be a lack of empathy for their victims when it comes to crimes such as stalking so that may contribute to why there is a higher recidivism rate among those with these diagnoses. They cannot relate to others without empathy, so they have no idea how much they are hurting their victim. Generally speaking, treatment for personality disorders includes various forms of psychotherapy (family, group, cognitive behavior, etc.) and medication may help relieve symptoms from other mental illnesses such as depression, mania, and anxiety that can worsen personality disorder symptoms (Personality Disorders, © 2013).
Vermote, et al. (2011) suggest that long term hospitalization based therapies has a better effect at changing personality traits (based on several personality disorders, most being Class “B”). They studied cases of patients that were in a hospital setting (residential and day-hospital) receiving various treatments for a maximum of one year. Treatments included things such as group therapies, non-verbal therapies (music therapy, psychomotor therapy, and creative therapy), psychiatric consultation, social work, individual and group sessions with a nurse, and regular patient-staff meetings. Treatments focused on establishing a sense of “inner self safety”, corrective emotional experiences and interpretation to correct impairments in representations of self and others, and mentalizations to create a way to reflect and understand oneself and others (such as feelings and intentions). They found that there existed a stable group and fluctuating (but still improving) group that had the same results long term with these forms of treatment. When comparing the stable group to the fluctuating group, they found that the fluctuating group had significantly more symptoms when treatment started. Both groups, however, had significant improvement in their symptoms over time. The thing that will help make treatment a success, however, is patient participation.
It is possible that a combination of interventions can greatly help manage stalking behaviors, especially when it comes to those identified as moderate- and high-risk of persistence in stalking. McEwan, et al. (Apr. 2009) says that intervention and management will often need many sources such as “psychologists, psychiatrists, case managers, police, community corrections, and courts.” The court’s and law enforcement’s roles could be to compel those convicted of stalking and obsessional harassment for evaluation as well as treatment if so recommended by those in the medical and social work fields. This multifaceted intervention approach to tackling recidivism in stalking should, in theory, help to achieve a lower recidivism rate. This will also help a percentage of those to actually overcome major problems such as substance abuse, mental illness, mood disorders, and personality disorders which affects more than just stalking behaviors. This end result would be increased quality of life for both victim and stalker.
In the meantime finding ways to try and better predict recidivism continue to be developed (McEwan, Mullen, & MacKenzie, Apr. 2009). This will help to pinpoint those with the most urgent needs of a multi-resource intervention approach to help curb any possibilities of re-offense. Categories used in these prediction models range from offender-victim relationship, history of substance abuse, and psychiatric diagnoses. Based on these risk assessments proper courses of treatments and corrections can be prescribed to further the success rate of the interventions.
It is perhaps worthwhile to further the discussion of the role of the criminal justice system working in tandem with social services and psychiatric care to help tackle the problem of stalking recidivism. One of the most volatile elements in those convicted of stalking that reoffend is personality disorders, particularly Class “B” disorders. With such a combination of various interventions, it is theorized that recidivism can indeed be reduced. This will help the victims of those that would normally reoffend to be able to heal and move on with their lives as well as helping stalkers to be able to better adapt and live productive lives.
Personality Disorders. (© 2013). Retrieved from Mental Health America: http://www.nmha.org/go/information/get-info/personality-disorders
Dennison, S. M. (Aug., 2007). Interpersonal Relationships and Stalking: Identifying When to Intervene. Law and Human Behavior, Vol. 31, No. 4, 353-367.
McEwan, T. E., Mullen, P. E., & MacKenzie, R. (Apr. 2009). A Study of the Predictors of Persistence in Stalking Situations. Law and Human Behavior, Vol. 33, No. 2, 149-158.
Mullen, P. E., & Pathé, M. (2002). Stalking. Crime and Justice, Vol. 29, 273-318.
Rosenfeld, B. (Jun., 2003). Recidivism in Stalking and Obsessional Harassment. Law and Human Behavior, Vol. 27, No. 3, 251-265.
South Carolina Code of Laws: SC 16-3-1700. (n.d.). Retrieved from South Carolina Legislature Online: http://www.scstatehouse.gov/code/t16c003.php
South Carolina Code of Laws: SC 16-3-1740. (n.d.). Retrieved from South Carolina Legislature Online: http://www.scstatehouse.gov/code/t16c003.php
Vermote, R., Lowyck, B., Luyten, P., Verhaest, Y., Vertommen, H., Vandeneede, B., . . . Peuskens, J. (2011). Patterns of Inner Change and Their Relation with Patient Characteristics and Outcome in a Psychoanalytic Hospitalization-Based Treatement for Personality Disordered Patients. Clinical Psychology & Psychotherapy Volume 18, Issue 4, 303-313.