Don’t Be a Target for Criminal Manipulation. Five Factors that Almost Guarantee that You Will.


Joyce Mitchell is a public employee and a wife and a mother and she could spend the next decade behind bars. Why? Because she helped killers Richard Matt and David Sweat escape from the Clinton Correctional Facility in New York.

Do we know why she would give them hacksaw blades, drill bits, lighted eyeglasses, and her cell phone?

No, but she stated that Richard Matt made her feel “special.” Yes, “special.”

Bingo. Joyce’s statement of feeling “special” is a classic “red flag” for professional boundary violation and vulnerability to criminal manipulation. She might have been targeted by these sociopaths and if you don’t watch out for these signs, you could be too.


Sociopaths and criminals target caregivers, teachers, and other individuals whom they assess as vulnerable and if you display certain traits you could be one of those individuals.

If you working in an environment that houses sociopaths and criminals and are vulnerable, you will be set up for a simple relationship that can turn into Nightmare on Elm Street.

Targeting is simple. Inmates and long-term patients (such as forensics hospital commitments) have time to observe you. They listen to what you say, they watch how you behave.

They evaluate your vulnerability, they set you up by establishing a relationship, they test your susceptibility to be manipulated, use a little leverage and then they pull the trigger on the big ask.

What’s their motive? Hey, man, it’s what they do, always wheedling and slithering about testing the air for personal gain.

The prize is a staff member, patient or inmate who can be conned into doing little favors, then big favors, and then maybe becoming an accomplice in a crime.

Like prison break out of the century crime.

You may not realize it, but if you work in a facility housing criminals or sociopaths those people are listening to you talk with your coworkers about children, spouses, relationships, what you did on the weekend, and whatever other gossip they can hear. Think of a rattlesnake pausing, silently raising his head up from the grass and flicking that little red forked tongue out to test the air.

They watch how you dress, how you interact with coworkers and supervisors, what time you come in to work and when you leave. They assess how engaged you are with your job, whether or not you seem happy or sad, talkative or quiet, strict or liberal.

Here are five of the traits they look for:

  • Personal problems. These could be money issues, emotional issues, drug and alcohol problems or others.
  • Family/relationship dynamics. Maybe you’re having trouble with your spouse or your kids, or a relative.
  • Isolation. Do you seem all alone? How is your network of staff and friends?
  • Low Self Esteem. Do you feel bad about yourself? Maybe you don’t feel confident about the quality of your work or your social and economic status.
  • Job dissatisfaction or poor working relationships. If you don’t like your job, does it show? Do you have conflicts with your coworkers or your supervisor? Have these been observed by patients or inmates?

If you appear to be vulnerable, the inmates or patients try to establish in barely noticeable ways a relationship with you. Once they do, you can be in store for a quick descent into hell.

Patient or inmate awareness of vulnerability leads to targeting. Targeting leads to a relationship. A relationship leads to favors leads to bigger favors. Big favors lead to escalating consequences like now you’re wearing the handcuffs and orange jumpsuit like Joyce Mitchell consequences.

Don’t be Joyce Mitchell.

Learn to recognize the steps of a set-up and take proper action.

See next: Steps of a Setup

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